THE UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA AND THE BLACK WORKER
When the United Mine Workers of America was founded in 1890, it inherited a significant black membership from Knights of Labor Assembly 135. With over 20,000 black members in 1902, the UMW had more than half the total black membership of the AFL. In Alabama alone, blacks comprised half of the state’s approximately 13,000 coal miners. That the UMW was an industrial union from the outset had much to do with the status it offered Afro-Americans. It was impossible to apply principles of craft unionism when organizing coal miners because of the nature of the work. Moreover, any attempt to organize on a racial basis in an industry which employed so many blacks would have been suicidal. Negroes had worked in Southern coal mines since slavery, and by 1890, they were not only solidly entrenched in this employment, but their numbers were increasing in both northern and southern mines. Furthermore, the UMW constitution specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or nationality, making it one of the most openly democratic unions in the nation.
But blacks did not receive equal treatment with whites even in the UMW. Many complaints surfaced in the union’s paper, the United Mine Workers’ Journal, regarding the inadequate representation of blacks at all levels of leadership. Also, negroes complained that they were discriminated against in the skilled and better paying positions. Promotion was a slow if not impossible process, and they charged that white union officials often ignored their grievances. Moreover, black and white miners frequently were segregated into separate locals, especially in the South. Segregation also extended inside the mines, where the two races worked in separate sections, and often changed clothing in different wash-houses. In most mining communities, housing, education, and other public facilities were segregated as well. Thus, local folkways inevitably found their way into the pits, and into the union itself.
During the 1890s, these grievances flared into a heated public debate in the UMWJ. The most articulate of the black miners was Richard L. Davis. Davis was born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1864, where he worked in the tobacco factories. After laboring in the coal mines of West Virginia for a time, he moved to Rendville, a small mining town in southeastern Ohio. A delegate to the founding convention of the UMW in 1890, Davis subsequently served on the Executive Board of District 6 (Ohio), and in 1896 and 1897 he was elected to the international executive board. Throughout the 1890s Davis helped organize black miners in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Alabama. In his letters to the UMWJ, Davis warned white miners that if their black brothers were not treated equally, they would provide the operators with a vast industrial army which could enter the pits as strikebreakers (Doc. 1–61).
Another dedicated black union miner who bluntly expressed his outrage at racial discrimination during this debate was William R. Riley, Little is known about Riley except that he had been a member of the Knights of Labor Assembly 135 in southeastern Kentucky. He moved to Jellico, Tennessee, probably during the 1880s, where he continued to organize black and white miners. Apparently Riley was successful, for by 1892, he had been elected Secretary-Treasurer of UMW District 19, a large territory covering Tennesses and parts of Kentucky. Riley’s letters reveal the contradictory demands placed upon black union organizers (Doc. 62–68). Although the primary loyalties of Davis and Riley were to the broader principles of union solidarity, they were caught between white racism on the one hand, and black racial solidarity on the other. Their correspondence in the UMWJ indicates how profoundly black union militants differed from bourgeois black leaders, such as Booker T. Washington, regarding the struggle between capital and labor, and reveals black union men caught between progressive ideals and reactionary social conditions.
1. A FRANK LETTER
From Correspondent Davis of Rendville46
GIVING THE VIEWS OF COLORED BROTHERS CONCERNING REPRESENTATION—AND DIFFERING WITH THE POLICY ADOPTED IN INDIANA.
RENDVILLE, O., Nov. 20.
Work in the Sunday Creek valley, remains fair. Of course the usual scarcity of railroad cars prevails. I might say that no doubt your many readers are growing tired of these dull letters of mine and I am somewhat tired of them myself, but when a fellow is writing, no matter whether it has a deal of force or not, he is out of other mischief. This is one of the reasons why I try to write and another reason is this, that by writing, and especially of the things and happenings of every-day occurrences, it helps to develop the intellectual faculties. This I need, so does every other workingman. I have always claimed the miners, as a rule, are not as good subscribers to labor papers as they should be; it seems that they don’t want to know the real condition of affairs. When they pick up a paper they hastily glance at the general news and are then done with it. I was talking last evening with some fellows about labor papers, etc., when one of them remarked, say, that UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL is going down to nothing ain’t it? I spoke up and said that I thought it a splendid paper. Oh, h—1, he said, I don’t see a d—n thing in it of interest to me, well, says I, what do you take a labor paper for, in answer he said that if he took a paper at all it was so that he might get the general news which he could not get out of the JOURNAL. I then tried to show him that that was not the real idea of the thing and that labor paper was not intended for general news, but that its intent should be to contain reading matter bearing on the subject of labor that will educate us in the industrial classes, the reforms needed and the means or ways to get them, etc. This is my version of the object or purport of the labor paper.
Well, I see the fight is still on in Indiana, and while I do not wish to discourage anyone, I do think that a grave mistake was made, and that is by those miners whose employers have conceded the advance resuming work. It is simply a repetition of the Hocking strike. This is my view of the matter, one operator concedes the demand and as a natural consequence his mines are run to their fullest capacity while the others are being starved into submission. Another thing that this system brings about is this, it makes room for blacklegs. And why? Just in this way: Mr. A. says that he will pay the price, so does B. and C., the balance hold out, and say no, we won’t pay it. Well, men will not starve when they can get anything that looks like work, and the consequence is that the fellows from those mines that won’t pay the price go to the mines of A and B to work—see. They have left the other mine open for blacklegs, while on the other hand had none gone to work until a sufficient number of the operators acceded to the demand this opening would have been closed to the ignorant Polander or Hun or negro and, if necessity demands it, stop all miners in the competitive field. It wouldn’t hurt to try this plan once, if it is possible to do so.47
Leaving that matter I will say that it has reached ray ears that my name had been sent in to be placed on the list of nominees of District 6 for vice-president. Now I want to have a little something to say in that matter. I wish to say that I am not an aspirant for that office, for I do not think that it would be possible for prejudice to step aside long enough for me to be elected and I am one of those fellows who don’t want to run for office for the sake of running. No, no; if I run for anything I want to be elected. While I am of the opinion that the day is past when the negro shall no longer content himself with small things and while I am of the opinion that others have served in such offices who were no more competent to fill then than I, yet I don’t want to be butchered in the election. I think that if I could be elected on the board and then be given a chance that I could possibly do something for the advantage of the organization.
Oh, yes; I came near forgetting in reading over the names sent in for national officers I do not see the name of one negro for even a member of the board. Now I wish to say that these things should not be left for the colored men to mention, but you white men should see that one colored man is elected. Some fellow might say that we can do without that; I wish to say that it is impossible, for take the negro out of the organization and you have a vast army against you, one that is strong enough to be felt and feared. Some fellow might say that I am advocating for myself, but such is not the case, for there are a great many colored men who could fill the position as well as myself and some possibly better. So I say, by all means let us have one of them and put him to work, give the poor negro a chance, its high time this was being done. Remember the white people of this country in 1776 cried out no taxation without representation. I hear that cry today among the negroes of this country and I as a negro say, take warning and heed the cry. More anon.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, December 14, 1891.
2. DAVIS HOT
REPORTS WORK IN THE SUNDAY CREEK FAIR—COMPARES THE OLD AND NEW WAY OF ELECTING OFFICERS—AND COMMENDS THE LATTER FOR ITS PURITY—ALSO GIVES A FORCIBLE REMINDER TO WEST VIRGINIA.
RENDVILLE, O., Jan. 11.
Work in the Sunday Creek Valley still remains fair, but we have no assurance of how long it will last. Well, as the time for the holding of our annual conventions is drawing close to hand I suppose that a great many have on their thinking caps. I can say that I have been thinking some myself; in fact I have thought so much that I am afraid that were I to attempt to express myself I would make a mess of it, consequently I have come to the conclusion to keep some of them to myself and, by so doing, others will not have the suggestion thrown out by a great many of our leading men and think some of them excellent. However, I would like to differ with Brother J. H. Taylor in regard to the present plan of making nominations. I must say that the present plan is a good one in my opinion and I will try to make an explanation. In the first place, in my opinion, it is what the miners have been clamoring for for the last ten years, viz.: that the officers should be elected by the popular vote and not by vote of the delegates. Secondly, under this plan we hold our conversations in the hall and not in the hotel corridors, as we used to do. I suppose you all know what I mean by that. Well, I mean to say that prior to the adoption of this plan our officers were always elected in the hotel corridor or on side street corners or, in other words, the button holing process. Under the old plan the rank and file didn’t know who would be nominated for offices in the conventions and consequently instructed their delegates to vote for the best man, but instead in a great many instances they voted contrary to their own opinions and why? Well, simply because of the rottenness of the thing; something like this: Mr. A. would like to be elected to a certain office; Mr. B. has a man that he wants for the same office the consequence is that they will begin to hold caucuses and the one will say this and that about the other to defeat him, when in fact both of them might perhaps be the greatest rascals in the whole business; see how rotten it was. Do we have this now? No; not if we live up to the law, but quite different, for under the present each local is at liberty to nominate who they please. The names are forwarded to the district or national secretary and there compiled by him and sent out again to the locals. The locals then elect their delegates and instruct them just what and who to vote for and by so doing the rank and file does the electing and not the delegates and for these reasons I think it a much better plan and I will vouch that the majority of the miners think the same. Well, before closing this letter I would like to have a word to the West Virginia officers and miners. I chanced to go to Glouster on last Saturday on some business, and while there I concluded to go to Jacksonville and while there I met Brother J. L. Edmunds, vice president of District 17, U.M.W. of A. I was much surprised to learn that he was there working in the mines. In our talk I learned that he had been blacklisted in his state and he had to come over in Ohio to seek a livelihood. Great guns, just think how preposterous the thing is, an executive officer being compelled to leave his own state and at that during his term of office, to seek work elsewhere. Say Brother Moran, did you not know this? Didn’t you know it Brother Stephenson? Strange is it not that in all your writings you never made mention of the matter. Strikes me that some inconsistency has been used in this matter. Now then we will see your vice president is by virtue of his office a commissioned organizer according to your constitution, is he not? If so, then why this useless expense of having Brother W. B. Wilson in that section. Could you have gotten that money and paid it to Brother Edmunds to travel over the state with. He could have done the same work and at a much less expense to the organization. Now think the matter over and see if you have treated the brother right. Just such things as these is what the negro is kicking against and we are not going to have it. If your vice president is a negro he must be treated the same as a white man and unless you do there is going to be a mighty earthquake somewhere. Mark my words such things as these cannot be allowed and we won’t allow it either. Now I am not boasting, but such a thing as this would not be tolerated in Ohio. Oh, no! We would have one of the worst (I came near saying one of the d---t) strikes that you ever heard of. Boys, you all had better come over and let us give you a few lessons, you need it.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine workers’ Journal, January 14, 1892.
3. DAVIS DECLINES
Work in the Sunday Creek Slacking Off Somewhat
Rendville, O., Jan. 18, 1892.—Work in this part of the Sunday Creek Valley has taken a somewhat decided change. None of the mines are doing so well as they have in the past. However, we are not the least surprised as we had been expecting it for some time. Mr. Editor please allow me space enough in your valuable paper to say that in your last issue I noticed my name among those nominated for the office of vice president of the U.M.W. of A. I would like to say to the miners of our grand old organization that inasmuch as I am not competent to fill so important an office, I must say frankly that I am not a candidate for said office.
However, I wish to thank those who appreciated me so highly as to give me the nomination. I would just say to them to wait a little while, and if given the chances, I will certainly equip myself for some of the things that I now must necessarily decline.
Yours in the cause of labor.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, January 21, 1892.
THE HONOR CONFERRED BY THE OHIO MINERS, AND EXCHANGES A FEW WORDS WITH STEPHENSON—OVER THE IMPUTED GRIEVANCE OF BROTHER EDMUNDS
RENDVILLE, O., Jan. 25.
Having just returned home from our annual convention of District No. 6, United Mine Workers, and having nothing else to do I thought I would try to write a few lines to your valuable paper so that they may know that I am still in the land of the living. With your permission, Mr. Editor, I would like a word or two in answer to my friend and brother, Henry Stephenson, of District 17 of West Virginia. I would just say that upon my arrival home I went to the post office and there found a copy of the constitution, District 17, as promised, which I was very glad to receive. However, before having anything to say on that matter I would like to make a little explanation to my beloved Brother Stephenson. In his letter he says that Davis does not know what he is talking about when he interferes with District 17. Well, that little piece of phraseology is the only one in his letter that I take exception to. I will just say that I care not who it pleases or displeases. I will always be the lad to speak my mind on anything that I think to be unjust, whether it be national, district, sub-district, local or personal, nor do I care whether it be Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, or West Virginia. If I think you wrong I will be sure to tell you of it and I think I am right in so doing.
Now then a word or so in vindication of myself in the matter. I took the word of Brother Edmunds for the truth and I must still say that if true the most unprejudiced mind would say that he was treated unfair. Since then we have received the testimony of Brother Stephenson, the only thing left for us is to weigh the evidence of both sides. This, I think, would be fair, would it not? Well, then, if things are as stated in Brother Stephenson’s letter, then Brother Edmunds is at fault and not the district, for I do not consider that he would be entitled to any of the benefits of organization if he nor his local were in good standing. No, no; not for a moment would I assume such a position. I am willing to admit that I am a little saucy, but not unfair. I wish to do justice to Brothers Moran, Stephenson and District 17, as much so as to Brother Edmunds, and will, and I hope that all will be taken in a friendly spirit, and that no ill-feelings may be engendered. As for the brother being blacklisted, I have his word, only; that matter being disputed by Brother Stephenson. The only thing that bothers my mind is: Why would Brother Edmunds tell a bare-faced falsehood about it? I can see no good in that, as it would only have a tendency to do him more harm than good, for all that I want is the right thing. Give me that and you will have no trouble with me. Brother Stephenson said in his first letter that he did not wish to get into a newspaper wrangle with any one. I would say that it was not my desire but simply to get an explanation. Am I right or am I wrong? In reference to the questions asked by the brother, if as stated by him certainly no blame can be attached to District 17 and I am very thankful for his reply, also the copy of their constitution.
Before closing this letter I would like to say a few words to the miners of Ohio in reference to my election as a member of the district executive board and the handsome vote that I received. Fellow miners, your action in your last convention fully demonstrates to me that race prejudice will soon be a thing of the past if other states do as the grand old state of Ohio. I must say that I have always contended that the labor organizations of this country have done and will do more toward the placing of all men upon an equal standing without regard to race, creed, color or sex than all others combined, the church not excepted. This is saying a great deal, but it is nevertheless, true. I can only say to the miners of District 6 that I am more than thankful to them for the kindness shown me and I promise that I will do all in my power for the upbuilding of our organization; all that I ask is, give me a chance to develop myself to the callings of my craft. I can only say as others that I will do my best and man can do no more. I trust that when we again meet in annual convention that every man who works in or around the mines in the State of Ohio will have been mustered upon the roll of membership in our organization.
With best wishes for the success of your valuable paper and the continued growth of the organization, I am yours in the cause of suffering humanity.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, January 28, 1892.
5. EDMONDS HIMSELF48
Takes a Hand in the Unpleasant Discussion
Regarding the Status of the Negro in West Virginia Says the Whole of the Minutes Were Not Published
JACKSONVILLE, O., Jan. 30.
I have been very sick for the past two weeks and was unable to reply to the articles in the JOURNAL of the 21st and 28th, but will now make an effort. Brother Stephenson, in his reply to Brother Davis said, that he “did not wish to enter into a newspaper wrangle.” If that be true, why didn’t Stephenson state the matter just as it was, instead of trying to mislead? Why did he send Davis the unfinished minutes of our convention? I say unfinished because a resolution as an amendment to the constitution offered by Brother C. C. Wood and Brother Hogan, and unanimously adopted by that convention, “that the vice president be commissioned and put on the road as organizer.” That amendment brother miners, was left out of the constitution and everytime that Stephenson, or any other man or set of men, say that the executive officers have not discriminated against the colored miners of District 17, they say what is not so.
I see in the JOURNAL, words to this effect:
To the Officers and Brothers of District 17, U.M.W. of A:49
“BROTHERS—I am requested by the members of Local Assembly 2596, of Monongah, W. Va., to ask for financial aid for their victimized brothers who were discharged January 7 for joining the assembly when it was re-instated on January 2, etc.
“M. F. MORAN, Pres. or M.W.
“H. STEPHENSON, Sec’y.-Treas.”
Now, fellow-miners, to show you how inconsistent these gentlemen are and how they discriminate when it comes to color. In the latter part of April, ‘91, I was discharged by M. T. Davis the third day after I was elected Vice President of District 17, West Virginia. Local Assembly 1279 would not take action on the matter until M. F. Moran was seen. Well, we saw Moran after a week or two and I stated ray case. He told me that he would put me on the road to organize. In a few days after he made a trip to the Flat Top; he was so long getting back that I commenced seeking work. I first tried Carvers Bros., and failed. His excuse was that he had no room and at the same time was advertising for men for his mines up the river. I also tried to get work at Johnson’s and Wyant’s, with the same result. I then tried at Union mines (T. P. Gray’s mines). There I received work. I was put in an air course to be driven twelve feet wide at 21 cents per bushel and 50 cents a yard. In that air course was fourteen inches of slate and coal two feet above and two feet below. I worked there for a few days and could not make my salt. I was informed that I had to work that place or leave. Well, I went over in the next mine, called Mount Morris, and got a place there that a fellow-miner was just leaving. I worked there awhile and went to Black Diamond mines from there to this place, where I have been ever since. Harry Stephenson knew that I was discharged, for he has written to the JOURNAL and it is on record.
The latter part of June Samuel Johnson, a man with a family, was discharged at Johnson’s mine for trying to keep a boy from taking a mule in the mines, (the drivers being on strike.) The boy told the bank boss that Johnson called him a blackleg and Johnson had to go. He was a financial member of 1279 and we had not a better worker in there. Brother Johnson laid his case before the assembly and it was laid over to wait the action of the executive officers and it was lying there when I left and I guess it must have went down in the great financial scratch. I just mention these little things to show you that the negroes of District 17 have no rights that the officers are bound to respect. I will just say to T. P. Gray, that when I get through with gentlemen I will commence with others. I remain, Mr. Editor, yours unfinancially but fraternally,
JOHN L. EDMONDS.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 11, 1892.
6. THE WANDERERS
Should Be Brought in To Share the Burdens Davis Explains His Work Among Colored Friends
RENDVILLE, O., Feb. 14.
Having reached home from Columbus where I have been attending the annual convention of the United Mine Workers of America and having nothing else to do, I thought I would wile away the time by writing a few lines. Well the convention being over with, I trust that each delegate will do his utmost for the upbuilding of our organization during the present year, so that when we again meet we may boast of saying that we have more than redoubled our members. This I think can be done if each one would only do his duty, and judging from the enthusiasm shown by the delegates in the convention I think they will. Boys, I can only say bring in the wanderers, that they may share the burden and help to consummate the work already begun, by stepping forward and with willing hearts and ready hands take hold of the work of ameliorating the conditions of suffering humanity. Well, to be brief, I will not have anything further to say on that score, but before closing I would like to say for the benefit of the miners of Mine 19 or Buckingham that I think there is a misunderstanding between them and me in some way. I would say that this is a matter of long standing, and to make the matter plain it originated from a rumor that colored men would not be permitted to work in that mine. This happened something like a year ago, when Mine 8 was shut down and action had been taken that as many of the teen as could find places would be taken in the other mines belonging to the S.C.C. Co. About this time a rumor got afloat that the men at Buckingham had passed a resolution that negroes could not work there. Well, the colored men held meetings for the purpose of withdrawing from the organization. I went into their meeting and advised them not to be too hasty, but rather to wait and investigate the matter and find out whether it was true or not, telling them to appoint a committee and I would accompany them. Finally the miners of Mine 3 sent a committee and I went also. We met several of the miners and among them two of the committee of the mine, Messrs. Jenkins and Armstrong. We had a talk over the matter and found it to be untrue. We came home and reported it as such. Now here is where the trouble comes in, that I was not instructed to go there by President Jones. This is very true; I went on my own responsibility, but had previously written President Jones and Rae about the matter and had not received an answer. When I came back I sent my bill to President Jones, stating that inasmuch as he had not ordered me to do this work, it was left with him as to whether it was paid or not. In a few days I received a letter from President Jones stating that he had received my bill, had signed and forwarded it to Secretary Pearce for payment, etc. Now then fellow-miners of Buckingham, let me explain. When I came to your place it was for the sole purpose of trying to keep some 300 colored men from withdrawing from the organization and I succeeded. Now was it not worth the paltry sum of a days work? I think it was and after having made explanation I have no doubt that you will think as I do. I would not have written this, but it came to my ears that there was a very bitter feeling against me on that account. I will say further that if this is not satisfactory I would be pleased to meet the miners of Buckingham to talk the matter over at any time that they may mention. Yours for labor,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 18, 1892.
Successful Campaign of Miller and Davis
Foreign Speaking Miners Join the Organization in a Body Colored Miners Also Join Hands With the Rest Many Thanks Due to Energetic Local Men
RENDVILLE, O., Feb. 28.
Having nothing else to do I thought I would trouble you a little with our doings of last week. Having been ordered by President Nugent to go to Long Run, Dillonvale and Laurelton, I accordingly packed my little bundle and proceeded thence. Upon my arrival I met Vice President Miller and we at once proceeded to work in the interest of the organization. It will be remembered that at the three places there are upward of 1,000 miners and mine laborers employed and I think I can truthfully say that less than one-fifth of them were members of the United Mine Workers of America. The causes of this condition of things may be assigned to various things. One of the reasons was because of this fact, that out of the 1,000 men or more at least two-thirds or more are of the foreign-speaking element, consisting of Hungarians, Polanders, Slavs, Bohemians and Belgians. Of course out of this vast army of foreign-speaking people some of them were union men, but very few indeed.
I believe the greatest drawback that these people have is the lack of a leader. I also found a number of the English speaking people who were not connected with the organization, and of course this was also an example for others to follow.
In company with Vice President Miller, after scanning the fields and taking a general survey of the ground, we got down to actual work. Having made arrangements with the superintendent, Mr. Ceorge Atherton, to lay each mine idle on the days of meeting we arranged our meetings as follows: On Wednesday at Dillonvale, Thursday at Long Run, and Friday at Laurelton. Well, I believe our visit a successful one; however, we will leave that for others to judge. On Wednesday we held our meeting at Dillonvale, which was very well attended. We gave the boys a short talk, after which all others who wished had their say. At the conclusion of the discussion one was selected from among the foreign-speaking element to explain to them the object of the meeting and as near as possible what had been said. After an explanation had been made a vote was taken that they would join the organization in a body which was carried unanimously. So far so good. I believe these men will work in unison with their fellow-craftsmen hereafter and this I do know, if they don’t it will not be the fault of their local officers. However, I believe the men to be in dead earnest this time, and will signify the same by the payment of their dues and assessments hereafter. Our next meeting was held at Long Run, on Thursday, here we had an extraordinary good meeting. One of the principal features of this meeting with me was the large number of my people who were in attendance and about these people I wish to say that they, to a man after things were explained to them, were ready to join our organization and signified their willingness by subscribing their names. Another feature of the meeting was the large number of foreigners present and what I mean by that is the Polanders, Hungarians, Bohemians, Slavs, etc. One thing that I would like to say about these people is, that they were very attentive to the business of the meeting and especially when one of their own number was speaking. I will just here make this plainer. The checkweighman at this mine is a Polander, but can speak the English language quite fluently. After Vice President Miller and myself got through speaking this gentleman got up and interpreted it to the Polanders, Huns and Slavs in a very able manner. It was quite interesting to notice how they would flock around him while he was talking, in fact they just got as close as they possibly could and looked right at him. Another noticeable feature was this, that although the meeting was an out-door one, one could almost hear a pin fall while he was talking. After he was through a motion was made that they would join in a body; the vote was taken by the raising of the hands and the motion was unanimously carried, with loud cheers from the foreign-speaking element. At this juncture a secretary was elected from each nationality to take their names as members of the organization, with splendid results, after which they elected their officers, and I want to show to your many readers the fairness of the occasion and of the officers chosen. Among them were one Hungarian, one negro, one Polander, one Slav, and one white, so you can readily see that these people mean business and have started about it in the right way.
On Friday we held our meeting at Laurelton. This meeting was also well attended and after the talk of Vice President Miller, William Nixon and the writer a vote was taken to join the organization in a body. This was also carried unanimously. Of course they had no officers to elect as they had a local already in existence; oh! yes they did; they elected a Polander on the pit committee. Now, I am not positive as to whether he was a Polander or not, but he was of the foreign speaking element, and I think that those people will be in line with their fellow-craftsmen and with the perseverance of the untiring staff of officers that they have I think that this can be made one of the strongest organized sub-districts in the State. In a word I think that our trip in that section of the State a very successful one indeed. Fearing this may be consigned to the waste basket I will stop. However I would like to extend to Messrs. Thos. Wilkinson, Richard Wilson, Joseph Curran and Matt Scott, of Dillon, and Wm. Nixon and George Reed of Laurelton and Wm. Atwood, Wm. Fitzgerald, John Partington, M. Brooks and Samuel Skinner of Long Run, our heartfelt thanks for their aid in the good work, and trust that they will continue. Yes, we also wish to thank the checkweighman at Long Run for his assistance which was invaluable and trust that he will also continue working for the cause of suffering humanity. We also wish to thank Mr. George Atherton for his kindness in suspending work in the mines on days of meeting, thereby securing to us good meetings. Well I don’t suppose you have any more space to spare, wishing success to your valuable paper and the upbuilding of our organization.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 3, 1892.
8. BRAZIL, INDIANA
An Appeal to Act Impartially Toward Colored Miners
BRAZIL, Ind., March 21.—Having been a reader of your valuable paper for the year, and seeing nothing from here, and the need of so much, I wish to say as an Afro-American, I am pleased to hear of the stand that Brother Riley50 and Davis are taking for our people, and must say that I had some of the same troubles to contend with as Brother Riley when I was at Bevier, Ky., and the color line was the cause of losing a good strong Local Assembly there. Now, my Anglo-Saxon brothers, why do you not keep your pledge of honor, as you vowed when you were initiated into Knighthood? You can never get your union strong as long as you ignore the Afro-American as a coal producer against you.51
When it becomes time for you to strike, as is too often the case, then out of revenge we, the bulk of the Afro-Americans go to work for spite, and because when everything is smooth you object to our color, which is unconstitutional and contrary to the will of our National, state and general officials. I have letters in my possession from coal operators in Indiana stating that their men had lost a strike, but still refused to work with me and my people, but I shall try to get the Afro-Americans to reorganize here if possible and get some readers for the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 24, 1892.
9. LAND OF BONDAGE
WHERE THE BOSS TERRORIZES HONEST WORKMEN—BRUTISH DEMEANOR OF THE UNDERLINGS IN WEST VIRGINIA—OATHS AND STONES RESORTED TO IN DISPERSING MEETINGS—TWO HUNDRED MEN PERMIT ONE COWARD TO INTIMIDATE THEM
RENDVILLE, O., June 26.
Having got back home safely from the mountains of West Virginia, I thought I would write a few lines for the purpose of letting your many readers know what I saw and had to contend with while here. Also the places visited by your humble servant in that field. I will say that there is no place that needs organization more than the miners of West Virginia, for today those men are virtually slaves. Think of it, men working in a vein of coal on an average thickness of three feet, take down the roof, carry their timbers, such as props, etc., from the mountain side, mark them, then load them in a mine car and see that they are taken to their working places; and all for the enormous sum of 25, 40 and 50 cents per ton. When talking with these men, most all of them say we ought to be in the organization; we need organization, but we were in it some time back and it amounted to nothing. We were called out on strike, with the understanding that we would receive so much per week while on strike, and received nothing and were told to resume work under the same conditions as we came out on. That they were organized at one time and certain individuals who served as officers with the money, etc., and in every instance it was a white man that got the money; that when they were in the organization they never seen an officer after they had been organized; that the officers have at all time devoted their time in other parts and left them to shift for themselves, etc. These are only a few of the excuses that have been made to me while in that section of the country. Now, I will say that the cause of this state of affairs in that field is the lack of confidence in one another. The one is afraid of the other. The whites say they are afraid of the colored men and the colored men say that they are afraid of the whites, so that is the way the thing goes. Another reason is the cowardice displayed by the men toward the superintendents and bosses. It is a fact, one man serving in the capacity of boss in any way can walk into a meeting of 200 of those men and rip out an oath and tell them to get away from here or there and they will shy away as though they were slaves to them. These are plain and unvarnished truths, no lie about it. I will just here give you a couple of incidents that happened with me while there at a place called Claremont. We held a meeting on the 10th inst.; for this meeting we got the school house. The meeting not being very well attended it was decided that another meeting would be held at the same place on the 13th. Very good; on that day I was there, went around to every house for fear the men might say that they forgot it, as they sometimes do. Everybody was going to be there. I went to the trustees and got the key to the building, borrowed lamps from those who would lend them, and had everything in readiness. About this time Mr. Roe, one of the company, learned what was going on. He went to the trustees and told them that he wanted that school house closed up at once or he would find out why it was not. This was about 7 o’clock in the evening, or probably a little later. Don’t you know those trustees came there almost running and out of breath, informed me that they were compelled to shut the house up; that Mr. Roe was awful mad about it being opened, etc., and no talk that I could give them would satisfy them that Mr. Roe had nothing to do with the house. So we had to close the place up. I then tried to get the men together anyhow, but they were that badly scared that I could get them to do nothing, so we done nothing with those men and had to leave them.
We next went to a place a mile distant called Alaska. Here we announced a meeting for the following night in the school house. Mr. Lawton, the superintendent, got hold of it some way and gave them to understand that they should not meet in the school house and that he did not intend that any meeting should be held there or anywhere. Well, we did not get a meeting there that night, but got the promise of the men that we could get a meeting there on Wednesday, the 22d, in the open air. Well, on that date I went there with the full intention of establishing a local union. I notfied every man on the place and I want to say had them at the meeting. In fact it seemed to be my brightest meeting that I had ever gotten in the district. We were about to open the meeting and were trying to select a chairman. Nobody would serve. Some of the men were upon box cars and some were upon the ice house. I heard some fellow in the crowd say, “Here comes a chairman; Brown will serve.” I didn’t know who he was talking about, but I soon learned that he was one of the head pushers of the place. Well, he came right up in the crowd and ordered the men to get down off of the ice house. They didn’t move fast enough and he picked up a stone and pretended that he was going to throw it and I tell you they rolled off, all except one colored boy, who remained perfectly still and who had the manhood to tell him that he had better not strike him. After this he went away, so we then resumed our efforts in trying to get a chairman and seeing they were afraid, I opened the meeting, starting my talk with boys. Everything was going lovely, I suppose I had talked about twenty minutes or a half hour when that gentleman returned. I had noticed some of the men shying away, but thought nothing of it; well, he walked right up in front of me with stone in hand, and addressed me thus: “Say, look here, you ----- ----- black scamp, I want you to get off of these premises right away, move along or I’ll knock --- out of you in a minute.” I had not very far to go; I just stepped down on the railroad track and told the boys to come with me, and we would have our meeting anyhow. That wasn’t enough, he came again and says ----- ----- your black soul, I want you to move either up or down this track, and that ----- quick. I then gave him to understand that I was not on his property, and would not go any further. I tried to get the boys to follow me, but to no avail. They were afraid, and so then I left for home, and that night too.
Now, I want to say that it is going to take time and money to get the men along the New River into the organization. Flowery speeches and enthusiasm will not do it, but there must be some one there continually for some time to come, and then mind that you don’t have asoft snap of it. I said I would mention the places visited, but as this is already too lengthy. I will write again.
A word on Straitsville: Here’s to you. I am certainly proud of your last move, how did you hold so long is the question that I am asking myself. Well boys, you are in with us now, and we all know that you are a good set of men. All that I can say is, now help us make the organization what it should be is my prayer.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, June 30, 1892.
AT RENDVILLE—TROUBLE OVER A BOSS AT NO. 8—DISCUSSES THE QUESTION OF RACE AND CREED PREJUDICE—SAYS SPENCE WILL HAVE TO HUSTLE TO ORGANIZE WEST VIRGINIA
RENDVILLE, O., July 11.
Work is yet at a standstill at mine No. 3 with no visible signs of an early settlement. However, it will come bye-and-bye. No one has lost hopes yet. There was a little trouble at mine No. 8, on Wednesday, July 6, caused by the boss quitting, and some of the men not caring to work under a colored boss. The consequence was the men went home and the mine was laid idle for that day.
I say that some of the men didn’t care to work under a colored mine boss, and so expressed themselves, but I do not believe that all of them were in that frame of mind, at the same time it came near causing trouble in our ranks; because we have a goodly number of colored men in this part of the country, and these men, especially those working at that mine, were hot and swearing vengeance against everybody and everything, and a large number threatening to withdraw from the organization at once and never have anything further to do with it if such discriminations were allowed. I knew what that meant; it simply meant that we would go back to the same conditions as we had ten years ago; no organization or no nothing, discord and dissen-
and strife would prevail. On the same day a meeting was called, and the writer attended, to try, if possible, to suppress the feeling that was prevailing. The meeting was opened and the business stated, and then the wrangle began, and some very incendiary remarks were made on both sides.
After listening for awhile and seeing things were getting no better, but getting worse, I got the sanction to talk to the boys awhile and, knowing the men of the Sunday Creek valley as I did, I knew that they were too intelligent a class of men to allow any such proceedings to be carried on. I knew that they did not want to destroy what little organization they had. I knew that they did not want a rehearsal of 1881–82, for it had taken years to build up our organization to its present standing and it would be foolish and unwise to do anything that would have a tendency to tear it down. After a little talk we got the matter settled, as far as the boss was concerned, i.e., the colored boss, and the threatened trouble was averted and I truly hope that we will never have a repetition of that thing again. We have some men among us who are members of our organization only because they are forced to be. These men will naturally take any advantages that they can get to squirm out of it. Don’t think that these are colored men alone, for such is not the case, for there are a few whites mixed up in the gang. Some few of our colored men say that they will never do any good until they organize to themselves, that is, withdraw from our present form of organization and get up an organization of their own. Well, when I hear such stuff as that, no matter from whose lips it comes, it makes me nervous (mad), because I think that we are too far advanced in civilization to even entertain such foolish notions. I have got it fixed up in my brain that a man is a man, no matter what the color of his skin is, and I don’t care who thinks different. I think myself just as good as anybody else, although the color of my skin is dark. I had nothing to do with the making of myself, probably if I had the results would be somewhat different.
I have had men call me a nigger, but I always call him the same kind of a fool, so we keep even on that score. I am one of those who are looking for a brighter day to dawn upon the working classes and it can only be attained through the medium of labor organization and I want to do my share to that end. It is high time for the color line to be dropped in all branches of industry, for until then there will be no peace. The negro has a right in this country; those of today were born here, they didn’t emigrate here. They are here and to stay. They are competitors in the labor market and they have to live, and I think were we, as workingmen, to turn our attention to fighting monopoly in land and money, we would accomplish a great deal more than we will by fighting among ourselves on account of race, creed, color or nationality. Let us learn this and we will begin to do better, for by so doing our wages will increase. We will have better homes and our families will be made happier.
Now, a word to Brother Spence, he says he could take me and organize the miners of West Virginia. I am glad that the brother has that confidence. I must say that I always maintained that two men should go into that field, the one white and the other colored. I believe more good could be accomplished in that way. Now, my brother, there is no one who would feel happier than I were the miners of that region brought into our ranks, but let me say that you will have to hustle and don’t you forget it. I am one of those who are eager and anxious to do what I can for organized labor, for it is from that source that I must live and I am only too glad to get to do something sometimes, I think were I as good a christian as I am an agitator, as some call me, I would surely get to heaven when I die. I will say to the brother that I hope we will get the chance or some one else of organizing New River.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 14, 1892.
11. NUMBER THREE
Championed by the Redoubtable Davis of Rendville, Who Wants a Satisfactory Answer to Certain Questions In Behalf of the Men at the Above Named Mine
RENDVILLE, O., July 18.
Please allow me a little space in your valuable paper for the purpose of making a few remarks on the conditions here:
Mine 3 is still idle and it seems that we are as near a settlement now as we were two weeks ago. When I last wrote it seemed that the chances for an early settlement were good, but not so now. At that time all the miners were idle. I want to say further that it was mutually agreed that all the mines would resume work at the same time, that is, there would be no work at any of the mines until a settlement had been made for all concerned. We were told this and felt easy on the matter. But in that we were much mistaken inasmuch as the other mines started up on last Wednesday and we are still out. Now what we want to know is this: Why were these other mines started without our knowledge of the same? and we want a very satisfactory answer, too.
I want to say, that the only cause for organizing a sub-district was for the purpose of more easily adjusting all grievances that might occur. Furthermore, in this district I believe we have a rule that in cases where one mine is locked out on account of any demand made for scale rates, that all other mines operated by the same company be stopped until an adjustment is made. This is why we connected ourselves with Sub-District 9. Our miners are perfectly willing to abide by all the laws and regulations of said sub-district so long as things are carried on in a systematic manner. Heretofore, we have been treated very fairly by the sub-district and have nothing to complain of, but in this case we do not think everything just right, and we don’t know where the blame properly belongs. This is what we want to find out. There is a section in our district constitution that any mine or local in any sub-district will not be entitled to representation in the district. Now, then, I fear that if this thing is allowed to continue as it is we will certainly get in bad standing in the sub-district, no matter what the consequences may be, and when I say this I am only voicing the sentiment of the miners of Mine No. 3. The men say that there is no need of them paying to the sub-district if one mine is allowed to remain idle while the rest are at work, the same being contrary to the rules of the district. I have had a hundred or more men to ask me why these mines were working, and I could not give them an answer. Since then I have Brother Adams, the sub-district president, and he says that he is not to blame for it. Now who is to blame? Speak up, we want to know, so that there will be no misunderstanding in the matter.
Now Mr. Editor, I want to comment a little on a letter that appeared in the Ohio State Journal on the 14th inst., by a gentleman who has been traveling through this section of the country. He says that on account of the Homestead trouble, that the leading disturbers among the miners are trying to incite a general strike if possible. Right there I want to say that this I do not believe to be true, but suppose it was, so that all branches of industry were prepared to make the move, would it not be better? I believe it would; such has got to come sooner or later to teach the money kings of this country that labor has some rights that must be respected. The gentleman goes on further to say that the miners of Sunday Creek Coal Company seem to be ready for a strike or lay off at any time and the men in the W. P. Rend’s miners are off for the slightest grievance; they will work one day and strike the next. This I believe to be quite untrue. He further says that last week Mr. Rend had occasion to discharge a mine boss and put another in his stead, he says, the miners didn’t like the new boss and consequently struck and that they sent word to another mine a few miles in the country and had them strike also, and at Rendville that they are still idle for reasons just given. This goes to show that the so-called gentleman did not know what he was talking about, or that he is a very noted prevaricator, for there is not a word of truth in the statements. True, the men at Rendville are idle, but not for the reasons assigned by him, but as I have stated in my previous letters. He even goes on to say something in regard to what Prof. McFarland says: “That the miners are something like a bull in a china shop using more force than judgment and obtaining about the same results.” That gentleman may have said it, if so, no one is very much surprised owing to the position that he holds. He also says that “About two weeks ago the men at one of the Sunday Creek mines elected among themselves a boss mule driver, and demanded that he be paid 25 cents extra the usual price of being $2.00 per day.” He says “the request was not granted and the whole mining force consisting of 160 men came out on a strike but went to work next morning with nothing but a loss to the men in wages of about $400.” Note that statement if you please; miners electing a boss hauler. I have been here for some time but I have never heard of miners electing the boss hauler before. I know this, however, that he is generally paid more than the rest of the drivers, but so far as the men are concerned about electing him the gentleman either lied or I am off of my base. The gentleman (a misnomer) in writing was evidently trying to mislead the public or people, who know nothing of mining and I have no doubt succeeded to a certain extent. He was either trying to mislead the public by placing the miners in such a bad light or he didn’t know a thing of what he was talking about. Such statements have a tendency to injure the reputation of the miner, but the people are beginning to learn that we have been misrepresented and that we are not so bad after all.52
In conclusion I want to have a friendly rap with President McBride concerning a statement made in a speech while here in regard to the miners of Mine 3 coming out for slight grievances, etc. Now Bro. McBride I want to place the miners of Mine 3 in a true light and, I want to be truthful as near as I can in the matter. Let me say that it is untrue about the miners of mine 3 striking so much, for I cannot tell the day when the men of Mine 3 came out until not long since, sometime in the spring, when the men thought they were being imposed on too heavily, and it was on the docking question. Men were being laid off a day for a single dock although we had a docking system, yet it was never granted to our men. On this particular occasion some 26 men were laid off, and I can truthfully say that of all that number there were not more than three of them that could have been called a dock had it been legally done. I say this because I am in a position to know, for at that time I was serving in the capacity of checkweighman and seen it myself. The men felt sore over the matter and the next morning sent the committee to the boss to get a change. The boss said no, that he had no power in the matter and the consequence was the men went home. This is the only strike that I know of the men engaging in for a long while. I can say also that the men at Mine 3 have at all other times regarded the laws as laid down in the constitution, and I am sorry to say that they have been the only ones in the valley that did do it, and they are the only ones that did not get scale rates for break-throughs, etc. How does that strike you? Are they paid for this kind of work now? Taking the men’s word for it I would answer no. I say I take the men’s words for it because I have not been in the mine for two years, but I believe they will tell the truth in such matters as these. If you want to know how business is carried on say so, and I can tell you and you will disabuse yourself of the idea that we are troublesome in any sense of the word.
This is supposed to not be taken in any other manner than the spirit in which it is written and that, I will assure you, is friendly. Trusting that when I write again our trouble will be adjusted and everything going smoothly.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 21, 1892.
12. VERY PLAIN TALK
Again Indulged in by Our Correspondent Davis
Nugent’s Speech Causes Some Irritation Underneath the Colla And to Drop on Davis’ Official Neck Prospects of a Tramp
RENDVILLE, O., Aug. 6.
Since my last there has not been any great change in the conditions of things at Mine 3. It seems that the wanderers are going to have their own way irrespective of the consequences. They are resorting to all kinds of trickery to carry their point, but I don’t think it will avail them anything. The writer has been classed as a very dangerous man to be with; so in walking along the streets he can hear himself talked about by the clique. Of course there are not many of them but they have their bearings; there are some who, although they don’t belong to the clique, are easily led, and strange to say by men that they know don’t amount to a pinch of snuff, so far as manhood is concerned. And yet, these would-be men are most all church members, good Christians, the lights of the world, etc. Well all that I have to say is this, that if such men as these are the criterions for me to follow, then I prefer going through the woods. President Nugent was here last Wednesday night and gave the boys a good talking to. Of course I was not at the meeting but I was told that some of them got hot under the collar. I suppose the talk was too plain for them as people of this stripe don’t like sound doctrine.53
Well, it is no more than I expected in the first of this affair that the ringleaders would get hot with me because I would not take sides with them. Such is the case and I have been given to understand that my time is not very long at Mine 3. They promise me that at the next election they will place some one else on the tipple as checkweighman other than myself. They will also make their own selections for a committee of the mine, that is if they deem it expedient to have a committee at all. They tell me though that they intend to be organized and all that, but does the move that they are making indicate it? It don’t seem so to me, I don’t know how it looks to others. I can only speak for myself and as far as I can see into the matter organization will be a thing of the past. Now I don’t want any one to infer that I mean that all colored men are alike in this matter for such is not the case, for we have some colored men here who are as true as steel, who are as good union men as ever breathed the breath of life. These men are all right and they will remain so, but these other—I came very near saying things I am afraid will remain as they are. No talk, no advice will make them see a thing in any other way than they want to see it. They haven’t sense enough to reason with a man, oh, no! if you don’t believe as they do away with you, you are nothing no how but a traitor. That is what they call me and all others who have the temerity to speak against their ideas. Oh, if you speak you are a crank sure. One thing that surprises me is this, that these would-be smart men are mostly young men, with but few exceptions men who have had the chance to educate themselves, who say that they read and keep up with the times, but when you seek to find out their reading matter you will find that it is the Police Gazette, the Cincinnati Enquirer or State Journal. They haven’t time to read a labor paper; there is nothing in them they say but trash, etc. Oh, by the way, you had better be careful about publishing my letters, for I heard that one of your subscribers of this town had threatened to write you to discontinue his paper on account of my letter of last week, but I hope he will be more sensible and if I write anything that is untrue, I hope he will avail himself of the opportunity of disputing it through the columns of your valuable journal (I cannot see how a sane man could do without it).
Well, it is simply amusing to hear some of these smart men’s ideas expressed in relation to the difference between capital and labor. They claim that capital has a right to the reins of supremacy and that labor should bow submissively to the biddings of capital, that instead of strikes and so forth, that if you want anything such as an advance in wages or the like, go to the operator and ask for it. If he refuses you go to him again. If he again refuses then I suppose you must cowardly submit. This is no idle talk of mine, but facts, real facts; things that I have heard while sitting around on the streets, spoken for my benefit I suppose. There are a class of men around here who cannot get along with being led by white men I am given to understand, and earnest prayers are going up to heaven for their early demise. Well I don’t know of any such men, but I do know of some who are anxious and willing to do anything for the betterment of the craft be they white or black, and we believe we are right. We also know of some who are willing to do anything that is dirty for the sake of a smile. We believe they are on the wrong road, in fact we know it. Now to those I have only to say that they will find out probably when it is too late of their wrongs. I know you don’t like me because I tell you of your wicked ways. I can’t help it boys. I know you all, I can call you by name, I know your make-up and that is what hurts you. You say you will down me off the tipple and then I will have to tramp the ties, for you say I can’t get any work here. Well boys, there is a providence that rules the destiny of nations, and I think I can make it and my friends also.
Brother Willing Hands, in answer to your question, that matter was amicably settled and all went to work the next day and everybody satisfied.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 11, 1892.
13. A CONTRACT
Analyzed and Criticized by Our Rendville Correspondent
The Congo Coal Company Makes Provision for Strikes Houses Must be Given Up in Five Days After Trouble
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 10.
Not having had anything to say in your last issue I will try to let your many readers know what is going on around here as best I can. Mine No. 3 was idle three days this week on account of fire having been discovered in the mine. It will be remembered that some four years ago this mine was discovered to be on fire, but after a hard struggle it was supposed to have been extinguished. Whether it was or not I am unable to say, but it seems that fire has generated from cause again, though not so bad as the first one. It is now thought to be in good shape once more and I think there will be no more trouble from that source.
Well, they say that I am a meddlesome fellow around here and I suppose if they say it is so it must be true, but it is not my intention to be classed in that light, but there is one little thing that I want some light on. Not long since the writer chanced to be aimlessly wandering over the numerous hills of Perry county and suddenly found himself in Congo. Not the Congo that we have so much read of in Stanley’s works, but Congo, O., situated about one and one-half miles across the hills from this place. This is intended to be one of the most extensive workings in the state, so I understand; yes, and they are going to make a model town of it, too, so they say, and I say so, too, for they are establishing a something there that is not in vogue at any other place in the valley to my knowledge. I don’t know what others may call it, but I call it iron-clad in a mild form. Some call it a house lease.54 However, you must sign it if you want to work there. I will here give it as it is and then you can judge for yourselves. Read it carefully and see what you can make of it:
LICENSE TO EMPLOYES
This is to certify that at my special request the Congo Coal Mining company has consented and does hereby consent that myself and family may, as tenant at will, occupy their tenement house No.___, at their coal works at Congo, Perry county, O., upon and subject to the following terms and conditions and not otherwise:
First. To occupy peaceably and keep and return the said house at the expiration of said occupancy in the same good order and repair as when received, reasonable wear and tear excepted.
Second. On any pay day to pay to said Congo Coal Mining company or allow to be deducted from my earnings as they prefer, the sum of ___ dollars, as a monthly rental for said house.
Third. Without any notice within five days after I have ceased to work for said Congo Coal Mining company by reason of any strike by any employes at said coal works, to deliver up to said Congo Coal Mining company peaceable possession of said house and at any time on five days notice to quit, to me, given by said Congo Coal Mining company or their agent, by service personally or left at said house, to deliver up peaceable possession of said property to said Congo Coal Mining company.
On my neglect or refusal to comply with any one of said terms or conditions, or to deliver possession of said house within five days after I quit work, as aforesaid, or within five days after notice to quit, as aforesaid, I hereby agree that my family and myself may be treated as forcibly detaining possession of said house, and said Congo Coal Mining company, their servants or agents are hereby authorized to eject me or ray family, and all personal property from said premises using such and so much force as they, the said Congo Coal Mining company, their servants or agents, or any of them, may deem proper, and I do hereby remise and forever discharge and release the said Congo Coal Mining company, their servants and agents, from any and all liability to me or my family in any shape, manner or form, for forcibly ejecting me or any of us from said house and property.
Witness our hands and seals this ______ of ______, 1892.
Signed and sealed in presence of
CONGO COAL MINING CO., [SEAL.]
Now, they tell me there is nothing in it. Well, this is my opinion of the matter. If there was nothing in it the Congo Coal Mining company would have never gotten it up. It must certainly be an advantage to them or they would not request each and every man to sign it. Let us see: In the first place they want all men of families, that is, enough to fill all their houses. Thus you will see that a single man will stand a very poor show to get work there. Second, unless you live in one of their houses you can’t work there, so I am told. How does this strike you? Suppose a man owns his own home at a walking distance from the mines, must he give his own property and rent for the sake of getting a job? or is it fair to presume that a man should do this? I think the man should reserve the right to live in his own property and even if he has no property of his own he should reserve the right to rent where he can rent cheapest.
But I am getting away from the point, I started to try to show the little harm that there was in this article of agreement. You agree that you must give up the house without notice within five days after you quit or cease to work, or on account of a strike. Right there I claim is a black eye to organization. While there is nothing said about the men organizing can you not see a little thing in there that means to do away with the effect of organization? For some years past the miners and operators have been meeting jointly and formulating scales of wages, etc. These are simply mutual agreements of prices and conditions that are expected to be lived up to on the part of both operators and miners. Now then, suppose the Congo Coal Mining company refuses to comply with these agreements, what then? If they don’t see fit to concede to the general conditions and you strike, why, according to this article of agreement you must get out and seek a job elsewhere. It simply means to keep the men under submission. They know that a man is not always prepared to pull up and move his family and men will naturally look at this point and in some instances will submit for that reason and no other. Again, suppose a man has within him the true principles of unionism and dare assert his right and for those causes the company would undertake to get rid of him by discharging him. Within five days you must get out of the house whether you have secured another or not, eh! That is what you have agreed to do. If the rest of the men stop work until you are reinstated then they too must move and give room for blacklegs. Is this not so? While nothing is said about blacklegs in the agreement it says you must peaceably give up possession of the house. Well, if all must get out certainly they don’t intend the works to remain idle. Then those who come in after you will be blacklegs and you give them that privilege by signing that little no-harm piece of paper. Oh, but you say that the laws of the state gives you thirty days. Well, I don’t know so much about that, not being a lawyer myself I can’t say, but it strikes me very forcibly that when you sign that document you virtually sign away that privilege that the law gives you. I trust that I am mistaken in this, however. In talking with a gentleman the other day about this matter, I asked him what he would do, supposing a strike should occur or that he got orders to quit and that his wife or one of his children was sick, so much so that it would be dangerous to move them, and they were forcibly ejected from the premises. Oh, he said he would kill somebody. Does he not give them that right? I, think so, if they would be mean enough to do it. I wish that I could discuss this matter as it should be discussed, but being only an amateur I will leave it for those who are more able than myself.
As this is already too lengthy I will stop for this time and will say more in my next.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 15, 1892.
Is Fast Becoming a Select Circle
A WOODEN WALL BUILT TO KEEP INTRUDERS OUT—THE COMPANY DRAWS A VERY DISTINCT LINE OF DEMARCATION—BETWEEN NIGGER RIDGE AND THE WHITE FOLK’S HABITATION
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 18.
Work here is tolerably good at this time, though there’s no telling how long it will last, owing to the scarcity of water.
In my last I tried to give your many readers a slight description of Congo. I must say that I only made mention of one of the evils at that place. Now, I wish to say that there are other evils there which I do not believe would be out of place to make mention of and while writing on the matter I hope that none of the miners of that place will get offended, because I am not wholly blaming them for the condition of things that are existing there, for I fully recognize the fact that there are some good union men who are working there and who are ready and willing to do anything that may tend to better their condition, but somehow or other they have not taken hold as yet. Probably they are waiting for a more convenient time when they can work with better results. But I said I would try to give a further description of the place, etc. Say, dear reader, did you ever in your life, especially you of Ohio, read of the Ohio penitentiary? If so, then you know what O. P. stands for. I know you don’t know what I mean by this, but wait awhile and I think I can make it plain in a very few words, and instead of calling it Congo it ought to be called the O.M.P. (Ohio miner’s prison).
Now then, I will give the reasons. The first place the place is fenced in all around, with two gates, one at either side and at each of these gates, so I am informed, they are going to have gate-keepers whose houses will be right at the gates. The duties of these gatekeepers will be to keep out all wagons or teams except those belonging to the company. Do you see the point? to keep peddling wagons out. You see they don’t want the honest farmer to come in to sell his produce to the miners, no, for that would be competition and the company would not reap the profits accruing therefrom. No, they’ll keep them out and if they have anything to sell they must sell direct to the company, and let them get the profit. This is plain, is it not? It is to me, yet this is a free country, eh! Well, if it is, I don’t want any of it. Now, if it was not for a railroad running through the place I don’t know if they wouldn’t put up a sign board, “None but employes allowed on these premises.” But you know they can’t fence the railroad in, hence the pedestrian manages to make his way in. I tell you that I believe in a man having freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of action, and if the present state of things are allowed to exist he will have freedom of neither. This is not all. Congo, unlike one of our ancient cities, sits on two hills or ridges with a deep ravine between, access being had to either side by means of a bridge. On one of these ridges or hills the white miners houses are built; I don’t know what they call this ridge, but on the other ridge the colored miners houses are built; they call it Nigger Ridge, see? A distinction is made by the company, and if a colored man goes there seeking a house he is very courteously conducted over on the other ridge you know. If he wants one over on the white folks ridge why he is told that he can’t get it, and if he insists he is called saucy and is told that he can get neither house nor work. That’s freedom, you know.
Now, we will leave the houses alone and go down into the mine. Here we find another distinction. On one side all the white men work, on the other all the colored men work. This is called over in Africa, how is that, eh? Don’t suit me.
I simply make mention of these things to show how employers will do to keep up a distinction between men for the purpose of breeding strife and dissension in our ranks, and while we are fighting among ourselves they wag away with the spoils, and what do we get, only the dregs? Now I think that these things should teach the laboring man a lesson, both white and black. They should unite and break asunder this infernal and pernicious line of demarcation and cast it so far back into oblivion that it could never be brought forth again, and until we do this we will never rise to that plane that we pretend we are struggling to reach. It is evident to me that with race distinction, church distinction or a distinction of nationalities, we can hope for nothing, so it is time for us to learn just even horse sense and do away with these things, then we can do something and not till then.
I cannot conceive the idea that some are so blind as to not see these things and yet there are men, lots of them, who seem not to realize the danger, and right here I will remind you of an incident that occurred at this same mine:
A week or so ago there came a colored gentleman from Sand Run, Conaway by name, a good union man, too so I am told, and I believe to be a union man also from the little talk, that I had with him. This man came to run a machine and on account of the small number of machines or something, it was required that two men work together. A certain white man (I won’t call his name) was told to go with Mr. Conaway, the colored man, and I am told that he refused and when closely questioned the reason he was compelled Co admit that it was only on account of his color. Although he was a union man he would not work with him; too black I suppose. Now, my friend, I thought you more of a man than that, indeed I did, but I am deceived and by way of advice I would say that it would be better for the miners as a whole were you and your likes to return to your old avocation, viz., husking corn and rolling pumpkins. I think you would make out better at it, for then you would not have to work with a negro for there are not many of them around here that like that kind of work. Yes, we must do away with this prejudice and I for one am willing to do anything that is honorable and crush it out of existence; then we will have good times. More anon.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 22, 1892.
Trouble Affecting the Drivers—Misunderstanding Stops Work
A Lesson Men Should Learn: Continue Work Pending Negotiations
RENOVILLE, O., Sept. 25.
I will again attempt to let your many readers hear from our little mining camp. Work is about as good as at my last writing. Mine No. 3 was laid idle a couple of days last week on account of the discharge of a driver and a misunderstanding among the drivers. The matter of the driver’s discharge was placed before the committee on Monday, they at once tried to make a settlement of the matter but failed, so on Tuesday morning a meeting was called and the matter placed before the men. Seeing that the committee could not make a settlement a motion was passed that the matter be placed in the hands of the sub-district officers; by this time it was too late to go to work and everybody went home, but I am told that they could have worked had they wanted. On Wednesday morning a good many of the miners went to the mine to work but the drivers did not come, hence there was no work on Wednesday. In talking with some of the drivers they said that they understood that by the motion was meant that the matter be placed before the sub-district and they remain idle pending the investigation, which was just the reverse of what the motion meant. However, on Wednesday morning Brother Adams came up and held a consultation with Mr. McLaughlin, the mine boss, and the matter was settled satisfactorily to all concerned. It is to be hoped that we will not have a recurrence of this kind; we should regard the laws better. It seems to be hard for men to learn to continue at work pending the investigation of any troubles, but we must learn sooner or later and I don’t think we will have any more trouble here on that account, our boys will try to do the right thing. In my last letter concerning Congo I notice in the editorials an article saying that unless I was largely drawing upon my imagination or was hypnotized while writing, etc., it was the worst case heard of in modern times, etc. Now I want to say that I always try to be truthful when writing and I don’t think that I overdrew the picture. There possibly may have appeared some few words that were unnecessary, but it was all truth and if you don’t believe it, ask Nugent or Pearce and I think my statements will be verified, so boys when I say a thing, although I am a little peculiar, rest assured if I say it is true it is either true or some one has misinformed me.
Well, as I am not feeling very well and I suppose you are already tired, I will stop. Wishing success to the organization and your valuable journal. I am yours for labor.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 29, 1892.
Whether They Are Asleep or Awake in Sub-District 6.
Secretary Glasgow Points Out the Courtesies Required Between Local and Sub-District Secretaries—Bellaire Progressing
BELLAIRE, O., Sept. 24.
Well, Mr. Editor, Here I am again with a few words with your permission.
What I wish to say is regarding principles. The first thing I will refer to is, locals within the boundary of Sub-District 6. A man claiming the principle of union and boasting of his good works and belonging to a local of the pure stuff, I should think should show his principles when called on. Now, then, how can a man be so awkward and stubborn as to refuse to answer the official call and information asked of him. In the first place, a local should not be led by one man alone, and in the second place when a man is secretary of a local and any correspondence is sent to him, if I judge rightly, it is up to the local to act, not merely the secretary. I have sent three letters and a card to C. P. Goldsmith, secretary of Maynard mine, and have never received one word in return, and all correspondence which I have sent to him has been of a nature worthy of recognition, and should have been recognized. Whenever a man has the idea in his head that he is the local there is a mistake somewhere. If he says the local has acted on these different letters was it not his duty to inform the sender their action pro or con? I say yes. Now there is something behind this, and now is the time to find it out. The Maynard local is the only local of Belmont county not attached to Sub-District 6. I thought some time ago, according to a letter in the United Mine Workers’ Journal from Mr. Goldsmith that Maynard was away up in the top notch. But I fail to see and until I see an explanation, I can’t believe it. It is claimed by the delegates that this local has been a stumbling block for Wheeling Creek. Why should it be so? I would advise Maynard local to have a little get up about them. I know not what action the local has taken, but I do know I have not received any word from them. I write this to see if Maynard local is asleep or has she died and wants others to die with her as I cannot awaken her no way. Not wishing to take any more space on this subject I will give a few items.
The Franklin and Trolls miners have been notified to turn rooms ten feet in width hereafter, but have positively refused unless paid equivalent to entry price.
The project of forming a labor congress in this end of the district is being worked up and will be a good thing if all men will come together and aid the efforts being made.
Work is quite slack in this section.
James Holt is slowly improving and is in need of some help from his fellow workmen; his doctor bills will be heavy.
We chronicle the sad death of Benjamin Dean, who was killed while returning home from band practice; he was run over in the Baltimore and Ohio yards. Benny was a miner about 20 years of age; a good, quiet, industrious young man and was loved by all who knew him. The funeral was a large one.
Bellaire holds her own in working of different unions. Wishing the best of success to labor’s cause and a wider circulation to the UNITED MINE WORKERS JOURNAL, I am
United Mine Worker’s Journal, September 29, 1892.
At Congo, Hence Desire to Right Things There
Work Fair Around Rendville—A Harmonious Meeting Calls Attention to the Banding Screen Bill
RENDVILLE, O., Oct. 2
Work around here continues fair and everybody is feeling happy.
The miners of Mine 3 held a meeting last evening for the purpose of electing a checkweighman and committee and other business of interest. It was one of the best attended and best conducted meetings that have been held for quite awhile. It seemed that there was a spirit of unanimity among the men and everything was quietly and peaceably transacted. I am one of those who like to have peace and quietude in the ranks, for through this method I believe more can be done for the betterment of the conditions of the workingmen of our country than any other. It doesn’t hurt, however, to keep up a little agitation now and then to keep men in mind of their duty and the reforms needed for the emancipation of the wage slaves, for they should be ever kept fresh in the memory of the people. It is our fight and no one can fight it out but ourselves. I am one of those who believe that the conditions of the miner is not what they should be and I believe there are a great many who believe the same. Then if such be true I think we should be up and doing. I cannot see why it is that the poor laboring men can not combine their forces as well as the rich, surely we have enough intelligence, then why not put it into effect.
We all admit that there is something wrong with our system of government, etc. Well, then, have we not the weapon to right these wrongs if we would only try? I think we have, then why not use them? There is one noticeable feature among miners that I have always observed, that no matter what the grievances, if work is good everything goes; but, just as soon as work gets slack then they are anxious to rid themselves of the many evils that have grown around them when times were good. In my opinion this is just the reverse to what it should be. I have always found it easier to bring about a reformation during the times when work was good. At any other time the other fellow don’t care whether we work or not, hence ray reason for doing these things during the busy seasons. This may not be very good judgment but I am always ready to receive instructions from those who know better than myself.
Oh, say, boys; I don’t hear anything about that question of weighing of coal before screening. I think it about time to get this before the public, for if we want it to become a law we must certainly have something to say or it will be taken for granted that we don’t want it. I can only speak for myself and it’s my honest opinion that it is one of the things we need more than anything else. Let us go to work and get that, then try something else and so on until we get all that we want, then be satisfied. Without any jesting, the miners ought to demand in loud terms the enactment of the anti-screen law.
Well, for a change, I will say that because of my advocating certain things in the way of organization it is said that I am only doing it for the money there is in it. Some say that I have got the bighead and think myself above them and for those reasons should be relegated to the rear. In answer to them I have only this to say, that neither of the statements are true and as for the money part of it I would be sorry, boys, for any of you to attempt to live on the money that I get for my little talk, for you would starve to death. What I advocate is from a pure principle of unionism, nothing more, nothing less. So, boys, instead of being my avowed enemies, come and let us be friends and I will assure you that instead of working to your detriment you will find that I am trying to do what little I can for your advancement.
Before closing this I must have a few words about Congo again. I am informed that the superintendent of that beautiful place wanted to know or in fact asked what in h--- that fellow Davis meant by writing such letters about Congo? Well I think I can answer that dignitary, and by way of an answer I will say that the bright side of Congo was being written up by some one in our local papers describing the costly machinery, beautiful and magnificent houses, fine tipple, power dynamos, etc., and in all his or her writings I never saw one word about the nice fences that were built around it, or of its pearly gates nor of the keepers of those gates and last but by no means the least, nothing was said about the contract that they had for the men to sign. And, seeing the bright side pictured so beautifully I thought it became me or some one else to show the dark side of the picture, and I accordingly made an effort to do it the best that I could without lying, and I must say that there are other things that I could have written, but I thought I had said enough. I would also say that I am one who wants to see these things done away with, because it is possible that we may want a job over there some time and we would like to have things in good shape. We don’t wish to sign any contracts at all unless the employer will agree to sign one equally binding drawn up by us, and we also have a natural abhorrence to being fenced in, and we would like to live in any house that we want, inasmuch as we must pay the same rent. I am firmly of the opinion that it will be only a short while when these things will be things of the past in Congo, for there are missionaries going there most every day and I think they will get things all right by and by. With best wishes for the paper and compliments to Brothers Willing Hands and Riley and others, I am yours for suffering humanity.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 6, 1892.
18. R. L. DAVIS
Takes Exceptions to Statements Made In Independent
RENDVILLE, O., April 22.
In looking over the columns of the Miner’s Independent of the 19th inst., headed “District 6, Convention,” as we saw it, in which the writer takes some of us severely to task, and, being sore because of the actions of the convention in connection with the official organ, etc., he seems to have lost all regard for truth. I say this because of certain assertions which he makes in the first place he seems to have a poor opinion of the old board. He says that he has been informed by a state official that it was seldom the president could get a true opinion from his board, etc. As one of that board I take exceptions to that statement. I do not know who the official was, but I do know that the assertion was false of all the members of the old board, which was composed of Chas. Call, Joshua Thomas, John Fahy, A. A. Adams and myself. I say of all those men I do not know of one who was fraid to express an opinion, and I think an injustice is being done them by making such statements. The gentleman then goes on to say that he don’t think the president will have that trouble this year, because of the fact that those who constitute the board this year are men who have ideas of their own. Now, while I have the highest opinion of the present board, I wish to say frankly and candidly that I do not think them any more intelligent than their predecessors. The gentleman, then, after making brief sketches of the abilities and works of the newly elected members, winds up on me, in which he says that R. L. Davis was the only one of the old board who was re-elected. He says that Davis has been on the board for a few years and by this time ought to be of much good to the organization, as he has had the training of the forces that be. He then goes on to tell of the places that I have been sent to as an organizer, etc., but winds up by saying that no one knows of the organizing done by me. Well as to that part I leave for others to answer.
He then says that to know me at my best is to read my articles in the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL. I am sorry for this, as I wish to be known best for the work that I have done for the organization. Lastly, he says that Davis is a colored man, and it has been thought good for the organization to have him on the executive board, as in that way he could hold the colored men in line. He also says that I work at a large mine and in the convention represented the great number of 19 men in good standing in the mine. Now, in reference to that statement, the gentleman simply did not know what he was talking about, for at the mine I work at every man in and round it with the exception of engineers, carpenters and blacksmiths are in good standing, and by way of explanation to the gentleman I will say to him that I represented the local assembly that I belonged to, and Mr. Clark represented Local Union 398, 161 men, making a total of 180 men in good standing, instead of 19, as he would like to make people believe. And, by way of conclusion, allow me to say for Friend Thomas’ benefit, that were I a white man I would get better chances than I do, and as for my standing, ask of our people, white or black, and he can get my pedigree.
Thanking the miners of Ohio for their kind appreciation by re-electing me as a member of the executive board, I am, as ever,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, April 27, 1893.
Gives His Ideas On a Few Things
About the Competitive Field, and a Few Things in Ohio
Addresses Himself to R. L. Davis on a Few Points
BELLAIRE, O., May 8.—Being styled a library scholar is worthy of consideration and is quite a compliment and I think I should be at liberty to tell others of my learning and give them an idea what is taught in my school. I have a good teacher, and when I read, write or spell I make some mistakes, but my teacher and I never quarrel, reason, rules. There is only one drawback in our progress, which is our school is small, and such a burden to overcome needs patience and perseverance. But I believe when the craft I represent become acquainted with teaching from the library they will not be in the same conditions they are today. Well, in February Sub-District 6 met in convention, took up three days preparing a scale for the coming year. Delegates were sent to state and national convention. With said scale time was occupied in discussing it; it was declared the scale to present to the joint meeting, it came back home to the miners, went into sub-district again, then to State, back to the miners and was still declared the scale for 1893. Tomorrow, Tuesday, another convention of miners and operators is to be held in Columbus. What for? Why, to consider the scale presented to the operators in April. Is it policy? Yes, for one side it is, and the other side is policy too. Let us see, was it the intention of the miners to ask for something they did not expect to get? Surely not, or at least they did not show it in the different conventions. Did they have any guidance in this step forward? They surely did. Then are the miners to blame for their action? I fail to see it. The scale as presented this year is better equalized than it ever was before and the only cause for kicking, as I see it, is in the localities where the miner has not been paid for his labor in equality. Let us look at the Jackson county miners. It is true they are to blame for being behind scale rates, but are they entitled to scale rates? is the question. If they are, when and how will they get it? If not, why do they advocate it? And there is the machine mines in the Hocking. For the past few years they have advocated three-fifths of pick mining price. It is justice. They are prepared to prove it; then why are the companies objecting? Here is Sub-District 6. This dead work scale has been a sore of contention for time past and the miners have agreed with Operators that all such should be settled in state convention. While I know it is true the majority of the miners are room workers and their interest, while in their room, is more money per ton, but when it comes to turn a room from seven to twelve feet for the coal and a pitiful sum of from $3 to $5 then they kick. The same with entry men; take a room man, put him in an entry six feet wide at $1 per yard and coal; he cries not enough, he wants a room, but such is life with the real miner. It seems the scale as a whole for District 6 is an honest one and should be adopted as such.
Well, I must ask some of the miners and “Fairplay,” also if he can tell me where our competitive field is at now, for I am at a loss to know what our competitors meant when they as a unit, West Virginia excepted, voted with Ohio for the advance. The block field of Indiana has got 5 cents, I understand, but where is the rest of the state, with Ohio, I hope. But let me see, has Ohio won; I can only say it depends on the action of Tuesday’s convention in Columbus.
Brother R. L. Davis is still crying for help, or at least it appears so in your issue of April 27.
Well, Brother D., If you ever expect to get more sympathy from our craft, please let the white man get a chance to look at your race’s condition. We see no fault with the colored man, as long as he is true, because a man’s skin is black, is no reason why his principle should be so. The colored man has the same right on this earth as any other, there is no law to prevent them. The church is their friend, and I cannot see what Brother D. wants. Is our union his enemy? surely not. For a man who is true to the union, the union should be true to him. Brother D., don’t let the color idea run away with you. I don’t see that you or any other of your race are kicked at, so let us have a short rest on color line and talk about something good for us all. I have the name of a chronic kicker, I accept it with fairness, and I may as well say it as think it, I will kick until I am kicked out or shown that I am kicking wrongly. A man can’t persuade people to do fair and expect them to stick to him unless he is firm, and I believe what I have said through the columns of the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL in the past will eventually be sustained, for the light is spreading. Nor do I wish to boast, but I claim as I have in the past, that our craft will call for a change in national affairs, is it not so fellow-miners? Honesty and fair consideration is all that is needed from the miners of Ohio to convince them of what I say. Well, I did not expect to take up so much space, but excuse me this time. Shick’s mine is running on the advance, signed for one year. Three peddling mines are working at the advance; all others at this date are idle. Plenty of empties going to West Virginia this week. Will close, expecting to appear again in the future.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 11, 1893.
20. TO GLASGOW’S OF LAST WEEK—“NO FAIR SHAKE”
Will Discuss the Thing in a Friendly Way Later On
RENDVILLE, O., May 15.—Again I ask for a small space in your valuable paper; this time for the purpose of trying to explain myself, also to get an explanation from Brother Glasgow upon the lecture that he gave me in your last issue. The brother says that I am still crying for help, etc. Well, my brother, I always thought it manly to ask assistance from a friend or brother if you were really in need. You say that if I expect to get more sympathy from our craft to please let the white man get a chance to look at my race’s condition. In answer to that I have no objection to offer only don’t wait too long in making the investigation, as you have already had ample time to have done long ago. I want to say to you, my brother, that when I wrote my last letter, while I had no intention of trying to convey such an idea, I say now, without fear of successful contradiction, that when it comes to a fair shake we are not in it. Do you catch on? If not, say and I will be more plain, as I am confident that I can sustain my argument with strong and sufficient proof. So far as I am personally concerned I have no quarrel as to unfair treatment, unless some one makes an attack upon me, as you have already done, and I want to say right here that I can prove that I myself have not altogether had a fair show. But, I do not wish to have anything to say on that score just now; a hint to the wise is sufficient. I want to say on that I have never said that our union was an enemy of ours; so don’t charge that to me if you please. Again, the brother says that the church is our friend. I emphatically deny the assertion, but will defer discussion on this point until later on; so if you wish a thorough airing on these matters say so and I am prepared to have a friendly discussion on it now or at any other time. I would not have said what I did in my last letter had it not been for the unwarranted attack made upon me by Mr. Thomas in the Independent and naturally expected Mr. Thomas to have made his own defense and not you, my brother.
Hoping that the Journal may have a successful year I am as ever.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 18, 1893.
21. THE COLORED RACE AND LABOR ORGANIZATIONS
The race problem, or what ought or should be done with the negro, is a question that has seemingly been troubling the minds of a great number of the American people. It seems, however, plainly evident that he is a citizen of this country and should be treated as such. This, in my mind, is the only solution to the supposedly knotty problem. Less than thirty years ago he was given his freedom, and turned loose to the cold charities of the world without a dollar or an acre of land. Turned loose as he was is there any nation of people who has made such rapid progress as the Negro has made? No, search all history and we find them not. During all these years in a said-to-be Christian and civilized country, notwithstanding the rapid strides he has made, he has been looked down upon by both the church and party politics both of which should have been his best friends. Being poor and used to it he had to obey the divine injunction, viz.: To earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. In so doing, we find him a great competitor with the American white labor. It is at this period that we find that the labor organizations or rather some of them, did that which no other organizations had done, the church not even excepted, threw open their doors and admitted him as a full member with the same rights and privileges as his white brother. This, in our opinion, was the first or initiative step toward the equality of mankind, and we are sorry to say that until the present day the labor organizations are the only ones that recognize the Negro as an equal and as a man. Recognizing this to be true it is also true that some of our people have not yet gained enough confidence in his white brother as to trust him very far. And yet, is this very strange? When we notice the fact that right in our midst we have some as bitter enemies as anywhere else.
While we admit that our labor organizations are our best friends, it would be well to teach some of our white brothers that a man is a man no matter what the color of his skin may be. We have nothing but the best of words to say for labor organizations, and hope they may continue in the same line of actions, and we are confident that they will not only better the conditions of the working classes, but will also wipe out all class and race distinctions, and in the meantime the Negro will be found as loyal to labor organizations as his white brother. It has been said that the Negro as a union man was a failure, but we are inclined to think that those words were uttered more from a prejudiced mind than as a truthful statement. Let us hope for better days for organized labor with the Negro in the ranks doing his share in the way of emancipating labor.
Confidence in each other is the thing lacking. This we can readily gain if we will but try. Believing as we do that all the reform needed must and will come through the medium of organized labor, it should be our proudest aim to do all that we can for the upholding of our organizations. Let us make them grand and perfect, and in so doing we will have accomplished a noble work, and by following this line of action we will solve the race problem, better the condition of the toiling millions and also make our country what it should be, a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 25, 1893.
22. GLASGOW AGAIN
Responds to the Rendville Man, R. L. Davis
BELLAIRE, O., May 20.—Again I come to ask for utterance in the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL. I had not intended appearing so soon, but believe I have cause to reply to Brother Davis, who has become rather awakened at my last letter. I did not intend my remarks to insult, or as a lecture, but the brother has accepted it as such, and now I have nothing more to do than to continue my course.
Brother D. wants an explanation; I don’t know what he wants me to explain, for I tried to be clear in my former letter and I believe the brother understands it right enough, Brother D. goes on to say he thinks it manly to ask a friend or brother when really in need. What I want to know, what is he in need of? He wants an investigation, soon! Well, if I had a say in this matter the brother would not have to wait many days, for I should be on the ground in a short time to see what is wrong with conditions where the colored man is mining. Do they not get prices and conditions the same as the white man? If not, Brother D., it is your place to report, and it is fair that the blame should rest where it belongs. Let us see where are our other races of people. Are there not many foreign-speaking people represented in the mining craft? Why are they not crying for office and help? To be plain and sincere, Brother D., you have been upheld by me and many others in my section, but I will tell you, do your work at home well and I believe you, as a member of the board, will find legal acceptance throughout the state. Did the people support you in past conventions for fun? If so, it is dear fun. No, they recognize and feel the need of the colored people in our union, and I don’t know of any failure on the part of union to aid you in your work. Come and tell us where the fault lies and see if your race is in such a deplorable condition among the mining craft, as you try to make out. What kind of a shake is it milk shake you mean? as that is a fair shake, I believe.
No, I don’t catch on to what you mean, but I have caught on to you, my brother. If I have attacked you, defend yourself; a hint to the wise is sufficient. I am not wise enough yet to take a hint in the style you give.
I did not say the union was your enemy, but asked you if it was. I did say, and say so now, the church is your friend, and you cannot deny it. If you do you are not the man in that line that you should be. I take from your assertion that the world is the church, but it is not so.
As for a thorough airing I am ready at any time. Regarding me taking up what you intended for Thomas, why did you seek the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL to inform Mr. Thomas? Why did you not send to the Independent, where said article you refer to appeared? I thought when a letter went into the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL it was for the public, but if you, Brother D., have a special privilege over others, please make it known, for I am liable to infringe on your special rights.
Now, Brother D., I don’t want to say anything to cause hard feelings nor do I want to take up space in the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL to discuss personal affairs, but if the editor will permit I am ready at any time to hear from you and will surely reply in my candid way.
With best wishes for the success of our craft, I am as ever,
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 25, 1893.
We Want Some of the Offices With Money “In It”
A Frank Letter in the Glasgow-Davis Controversy
The Latter Claims Credit for Helping the Organization
RENDVILLE, O., May 27.—Seeing that our literary friend of Bellaire is still alive I suppose it would be no more than right that I should acquaint him that I myself am feeling pretty fair. To begin, let me say to friend Glasgow that I did not take his letter as an insult as he would like to have others believe, but rather an attack from an unexpected source. The brother, in his last, wants to know what I want, or, in other words, he asks What am I in need of? and right here let me say that when I made the assertion referred to I did not mean myself individually, but all others of my race, of which I am not the least bit ashamed, and to explain all of our needs would require more space than would probably be allowed in this journal; so, we pass that by for the present.
The brother says, quite good-naturedly, that, if he had the matter in hand we would not have to wait very long, as he would be on the grounds in a short while to see really what were the conditions of the colored men in mining localities, etc. Let me say to you, my friend, that you are as much on the ground as myself and can you not see the inequalities as they exist? If not, your vision is faulty in the matter and a blind man though . . . knows that there is something wrong so far as the Negro is concerned. Where colored men are mining he asks, do they not get the same prices and conditions as their white brothers? I will say that possibly he does in Ohio and a few other of the Western states, but this only applies to his work in and around the mines. Promotion is a slow process with him; it seems hard for him to get above the pick and shovel no matter how competent he may be. This we believe to be unfair. Again, the brother says that there are many foreign speaking people represented in the mining craft, and he asks why are they not crying for office and help. I wish to say that I had heard no cry for office from our side of the house, but since he has been so kind as to bring up this matter and there being no conventions near at hand, I don’t know as any great harm can be done by us saying something on this very delicate question, and before entering on it I want to ask the brother just a question or two. First, Are not those foreigners that you make mention of classed with the whites? Have they had better advantages for getting along in this country than I who was born and reared in this country? Yes, and I am tempted to say that the lazy Indian who never worked nor never will has chances far superior to mine, although I have helped to make this country what it is, the said to be, greatest republic of the world.
We started to say something about that office business. While I have said that I had heard no cry for office from our side of the house, we have seen some hard scrambling on your side for office. When I say your side, I mean the whites. Now, then, will you admit that you need us in your unions? If so, why should we not hold offices, also? Are we not men? Have we not the same ambition as you people have? Are we not in many instances as competent as you? Then why should we not hold office? Not office in name, but office indeed; something that there is some money in, that we may cope with our white brothers, as an equal? I know you will try to make it appear as though I am speaking for myself, but such is not the case. I am speaking in defense of a people who have been down long enough. The day has passed and gone by that we, as a people, shall longer be content with small things. Yes, my brother, we want some of the money, too, we have found out that it is a good thing.
Again you say that you have caught on to me. I do not know in what way you mean, but if it be meant for an insult, then I would say hold on also, I have not caught on to you, but I am trying to as hard as I can and trust that I may succeed.
You again ask of me why I did not send my article to the Independent, where the article that I referred to appeared. Well, my brother, in answer, let me say that I have a preference and that preference is not the Independent. I want to be many on such matters. The Independent is not friendly toward me and I am sure that I shall not worry about it either; I am not so friendly toward it as you. Now, say, do you catch on again? Well, as this is already too lengthy I will close for this time. But, by the way, there is one thing that I forgot, and that is the brother says that I should do my work well at home, then I will receive legal acceptance throughout the state. Well, you make me laugh. If that is all that is required then I should have received that acceptance long since. Do you not know I have worked not days, weeks, or months, but years in trying to establish an organization of our people. Yes brother, have been out late at nights in rain and cold, have been called everything but a gentleman, have been threatened with discharge; all for the sake of organization and received no pay either. Would you have done it? But this I have done with the assistance of a few others and have accomplished our ends. We have not a man that is not a member in good standing in the organization, and I claim a portion of the credit for the bringing about of these results. Now, what do you want me to do? What I have said I can prove. Now then have I not done my work well? If not, we would be very thankful to have you come down and finish the job. Would like to hear from you again. If you keep on you will learn after a while, so keep trying old boy. More anon.
R. L. Davis
United Mine Workers’ Journal, June 1, 1893.
24. ANOTHER CHAPTER
In the Correspondence Between Glasgow and Davis
A Friend To All Is What the Bellaire Is,
But Doesn’t Sail in the Same Boat as the Rendville Man
BELLAIRE, O., June 3.—Seeing my friend at Rendville comes again in a frank and earnest manner in reply to my last and bids me come again, which I will do in the promise I made the brother, and I feel some better since I read the brothers last letter. If I had any fear of a trouncing it has completely left me and I am as fresh as if I had been aired well and political shower had poured upon me, while I am now truly convinced what Brother D., wants and what he desires for his race. Well, I don’t think it would take half the space that has been used to tell the wants which have been explained. The brother seems to think I mean him when I write. He is strictly right, and it is he that should take to himself first, then if any be left, cast it abroad.
No one has even hinted that you should be ashamed of your race. Brother D. Go back to where I began for reference. The next answer indicates very plainly to me that the brother has flew the track and his letter from here should have appeared in the free debate column. I did not for a moment think that he was dealing in politics and here I am talking organization and Brother D, talking politics. He has acknowledged the fact I wanted to know regarding his and his poor comrades’ conditions in and around the mines. My brother, if it is politics you mean, get up out of the rut you are in and tell the boys about it. Why do you stick like a leach to partyism? Come out on the side of reform and be a politician out and out. The next I notice is where he quotes I am as much on the ground as he is. Let me tell you Brother D., I am not in the same boat that you are outside of our labor cause, and to be more plainly, I am not in the same boat that you ride in nor do I desire to be. My reason is the boat has leaks and is liable to sink and if I mistake not came near sinking in ’93. Do you catch on, Brother D.? If not, be plain and let me hear which side you swim to. I catch on to the dotted space and refer it back for correction. You say, brother, that you have heard no cry for office from your side. Let me say you have howled, and so has your brothers from the same side and you cannot deny it. I believe you know what I mean by this. The question asked, first, yes, they are white, but as advantages, my brother, they are hooted at and condemned 2 to 1 to your race, and further you and your people as you term them, have it in your power to be free, for you can have a free ballot, have got a free speech, and further the colored man is not what the white man made him if he is not getting justice. The white man, I believe, shed blood to loose the band that bound the colored man and if he would now throw back to them, we are not satisfied and want a part of the money that is being freely spent. My brother, if you are a candidate for governor tell it among the people.
My dear sir, I am proud to know you have won such great fame in our ranks as a people and your labors have proven so beneficial; press on, my brother, I will aid you what I can in honest, fair dealing to make this grand and glorious land of liberty better. What say ye, my brother? Will you come with me or do you want me to go with you? I don’t suppose you would be willing to split the difference.
Yes, my brother, I admit we scrambled to get who we believed were good, true and honorable men in office, but, my brother, you were not on that side and you cry and say you and your race are not treated right. Brother, don’t think I desire you to do what your conscience will not permit. Certainly you should be the next president of our grand republic if the people want you, for it is the people who elect. But it is money that wins. No, friend, no insult intended to you, nor do I wish to wrongfully treat anyone, but if what I say goes to the bone it would be best to rub a little salt in to preserve it.
You say, Brother D., you have a preference in papers. You are surely welcome to it, but I deny the statement that the Independent is not friendly to you, for I believe it is the friend of all square, honest men, or at least I have found nothing to the contrary since I have been acquainted with it. I have a preference to papers too, my friend, but I don’t propose to seek one to run down the other. I believe the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL and Independent both should be working for what would do the people good. I find no fault with the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL and its editor and if it is good I wish it every success obtainable, but in well wishing the Independent deserves my best. My brother, it will certainly do you good after that laugh. My brother, why don’t you present your bills for the time you have spent in rains and cold? Why don’t you sue for slander for your abuses and threats of discharge? My brother, I suppose no other man who has been spared to live this long has had to suffer such trials. O, no, the white man would be dead and forgot. While I believe I have answered the questions asked as best I can, just a word to the brother. I did think and do yet that your people should seek reform. You are entitled to your rights and you should have them, but now when all you have said, my brother, should have been applied, what plan is the best to pursue to satisfy you. If you would, with your friends, of which I have been and am yet, if your cries are not wanting too much, you and I, my friend, are not traveling the same road, and don’t expect too many good things on the road you travel for fear you get disappointed.
While I might have condensed, excuse me, Mr. Editor.
Just a word to Brother Tyson of Danford. Your fault is faulty, my brother, and I believe you snapped too quick. Did you gain anything at your mine, my brother? If so tell us what. Yours for justice and the cause of labor, white or black, foreign or American.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, June 8, 1893.
25. ALL RIGHT NOW
Says Davis, Speaking On the Question of Methods
Some Reasons for Difference From Both Sides
Man Who Kicks Most is Usually One Who Thinks Least
RENDVILLE, O., July 3.—In my last I promised that I would have a little talk with our friends Laurene Gardner and T. P. Gray, but I trust that I may be excused for the present, for there are other questions which I wish to speak of. Having seen of late a great number of letters relating to our organization and the best means of preserving it. This is a question that I have given some little thought, but think and consider as I may, I can not reach the conclusions as some of my friends have. Last week I noticed an article from the pen of President Nugent in which he at some length discusses the matter. While I like the source it comes from, viz.: a salaried officer. However, I can not coincide with his views of the matter, and while I may not be as able to explain myself as he, yet I will do the best I can in that direction with the short time I have to consider it. And to begin with let me say that we agree in so far as keeping the national organization intact, but when it comes to the dissolution of the district or state organization then we differ very muchly. In the first place, how much does it cost the miners of Ohio for the maintenance of the national? Here is what it costs per capita, 10¢ per month or the paltry sum of $1.20 per year; how much for the district? 5¢ per month or the enormous sum of 60¢ per year, or in other words we pay for state and national dues the sum of $1.80 per annum. Now the question that I wish to ask is this. Is there a sane man in Ohio who will say that he does not get $1.80 worth of benefits from it? No, I do not believe such a man can be found. Of course there may be a few sore heads who would say it but these men if such I must call them do not constitute the rank and file. Now then if it cost such a small sum to run both the state and national then I can not see the efficacy of abolishing the district for, by so doing, you would not materially decrease expenses.
Probably it might be well to explain. Suppose we do away with the district and work all together on the sub-district plan, or make our present sub-districts or couple two or three of our present sub-districts together as one district. Do you think you will lessen the expenses? No, not one iota, for under that system possibly there might be no salaried officers, but you would have several men in the field continually, would you not? These men must receive so much per day and expenses, would they not? Then, if such be true, what would be the benefit of doing away with the district, so far as dollars and cents are concerned?
Now, then, I do not think that any of our sub-districts are run on less than 2-1/2 cents per month; some more, but none less. These sub-districts officers are away from home but little, but do away with the district and you change the whole system of things. Troubles naturally arise and must be settled and money makes the mare go.
Say that Athens, Perry and Hocking counties were coupled together as a district would it lessen the cost to the miners of those three counties? I say most emphatically no. It would not decrease the per capita 25 cents in the year. I think we have a very good system of organization at present, and I would say let the present system stand and instead of raising such a hullabaloo about expenses, etc., let us go to work to perfect our organization. The one great trouble with some of our people is that no matter what is done is never in their opinion done right and to please these few we are forever changing to suit their whims and caprices. This is wrong and should be done no more, for do as we may some are never satisfied and never will be; so what is the use of paying any attention to them? In all my life I have noticed this fact, the man who is never satisfied and who does most of the kicking is the one who is generally too drunk to attend the meetings of his local; consequently nothing is done to suit him and he gives vent to himself on the street corner or with his belly up to the bar. There is where he does his talking. Ask him why he was not at the meeting on such a night and the answer you will get nine cases out of ten is “Oh, h—l, (hic) they never (hic) do any (hic) thing at their d—(hic) meetings.” These are the men who raise such a cry about the great expense of running the organization, etc.
Now, is it this class of men that we must try to please, or the honest, manly, sober and generous-hearted men? I think it should be the latter, and for goodness sake let us hear no more about the dissolution of state or national. They are both alright; all they want is the assistance of the rank and file and with that assistance I feel safe in saying that all will come out right in the end. So, boys, let us get together and work as one man, always remembering an injury to one is the concern of all. More anon.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 6, 1893.
Is What R. L. Davis of the Board Thinks the Board Has Made,
And Would Rectify It By Holding a State Convention
Says His Head and Not His Heart Was At Fault
RENDVILLE, O., Aug. 12.—As a member of the executive board of District 6, United Mine Workers of America, I wish to have a few words to say by way of vindication for the action recently taken in the matter of the acceptance of sixty days’ notes in lieu of money. Owing to the great amount of dissatisfaction existing among the miners, I feel it my duty to make my position in the matter as clear as I can. All that I can hear is, sold again; turn the rascals out, etc., and to hear men talk I sometimes am tempted to ask, have I been deluded into this thing or did I blindly walk into this slough of despondency or did I do that which was right and according to the law, as laid down in our constitution? Some say that the board overstepped their limits when they undertook this question. I am free to admit that it was a very grave matter to handle, and for my part, I knew nothing of such a matter until after my arrival at Columbus, and when the letter was brought into the room, where we were holding our meeting. A cannon ball could not have had a more paralyzing effect upon me, and why? Because I had no dreams of such a proposition being made. Now I am only speaking for myself; the rest of the board can speak for themselves. However, the matter was in a manner rejected by the board; they thought it of too great a magnitude for so small a number of men. As I have said before, the proposition offered by the operators was rejected and a counter proposition made by the board. Our proposition was refused by the operators on the grounds as stated in the circular issued by the board. Now, before going too far with this, I do not know but that it might be well to state that we were led to believe that something had to be done, as a great many of our men in the Hocking Valley and other portions of the state were in such straitened circumstances that whether we as a board agreed or not, those people would be compelled to accept any terms whereby they might be able to get enough work to get bread, these may not be the same words, but the same meaning anyway. We thought it unwise to take any action that would defer the money due on the 10th, and did all that we could to secure it, but failed. We tried other plans and failed, and what we did do, so far as I am concerned, was for the very best without involving ourselves into trouble. I am now opposed to the acceptance of this paper and was then, and stated in our meeting, but there were other things brought to bear as to cause me to think that something was necessary to be done, and that quickly, hence the action was taken as the best under the circumstances. I felt then, as I feel now, that the step taken was a long one, and I am only sorry that the matter was not referred to the men and let them have taken action, whether good or bad, and if I have made a mistake I wish to say it was one of the head and not of the heart, and I want our miners to so understand it. I have written to all the members of the board asking their approval of having a state convention called, but whether they agreed or not is yet to be ascertained. I want to say that in the event of such a convention being called, I feel confident that I can get up on the floor of said convention and clear myself of anything that may even seem to be crooked in regard to this matter I believe that to be the proper place and then if the men are not satisfied there will be time enough to ask my resignation. I notice in one of our dailies that such a meeting will be called about September 1. Why wait that long, let it be as early as possible, let it be done at once. The matter is now fresh in our minds and may as well get it settled now as wait. I want to rid myself of any stigma that may be resting on me as an individual for I have always tried to act honestly in my dealings, and do not wish at this late day to be accused of crookedness. Let those who seem to be the most angry put themselves in my place and I will assure them that they would have done as I did. It has been said that certain ones of our officers knew of this matter two weeks or more before it was brought before the board. I do not know whether this be true or not, but if they did know it they should have let it be known to the miners. Again, if such was true a state convention could have been called as easily as the board was called together. I do not say that these things are true and do not make such accusations, but I simply speak these things out that all may have a chance to vindicate themselves.
I do not write this for the purpose of trying to convince anyone that a wrong action has not been taken, for I feel as though the action taken was too hasty, and yet, though hasty as it was, I did not think at the time that we had done anything other than our constituents would have done. I am disgusted with the paper business myself, for when this matter was under our consideration as a board we thought all business men would accept this paper at its face value, but lo, all our business people speak in voice of one accord saying that they will not handle it. Hence, if they will not handle it then it is of no value to us as miners, and should not be accepted by them, but on the other hand, why hold these indignation meetings and act like howling demons? Why not protest against it like men and call a state convention and do away with it if your board has made a mistake. Why threaten their annihilation? All men are liable to err and if I have erred in this I again say it is of the head and not of the heart. Trusting we will have a fair chance of vindication in the near future, I am, yours,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 17, 1893.
27. WRONG IMPRESSION
Deduced From R. L. Davis’ Letter of Last Issue
COLUMBUS, O., Aug. 21.—As it seems that a wrong impression has gone out in regard to my last letter, or more especially the headlines, in which it is said that a mistake has been made, I wish to say that, when I wrote that letter that I never intended that such an inference should be drawn. I said that, if a mistake had been made it was of the head and not of the heart. I could not admit that the board exceeded its authority in handling the matter, for, according to Article 4, Section 3, of the constitution of District 6, if you will carefully read it, you will see that the board had a perfect right to act in the matter. So far as other parts of my letter are concerned, I have nothing to say and leave it to the calm good judgment of others. But do not be in anyway influenced that I even intimate that a mistake has been made in handling the matter as a board; yet, with all that, I truly hope that our constituents may in a short time become contented again.
Now a few words to our friend C. H. J. of Nelsonville. In reference to the colored men taking the places of his white brothers of Raymond, W. Va., and Weir City, Kans., while it is true that these men have done as said, I want to say to my friend that the white miners are largely responsible for this state of affairs, simply because you refuse to allow the colored men to work among you in times of peace. If such be true, then is it any wonder that in times of trouble these men retaliate for the treatment that they receive at your hands? Do away with this system and allow him the privilege of working along with you and I dare say that instead of the colored men taking your places he will be at all times to the front, doing all that he can for the upbuilding of the craft. This is my doctrine and I care not whether it pleases or not, I am sure that I am right and you are wrong.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 24, 1893.
. . . As I read R. L. Davis’s letters, it seems to me he wants to please everybody, and he will find it a hard job. I would advise him to give it up or he never will please . . . take it along next time so that if you have any more self vindication to do you can have the same member to blame, else you would have to blame some other member and soon we would condemn the whole structure. I just quote a few words from the latter part of your last letter: “This is my doctrine and I care not whether it please or not.” Does your last two vindicating letters say this? No, not by a jug full.
Another thing I will just mention. How did R. L. Know that wrong impression had been drawn from his first letter when there was no issue between them? The fact of the matter of this, he thought some were displeased by the act of the board. He wrote to try to appease those displeased ones on his account. He then thought his first letter might have displeased some one and so wrote again. You must keep on R. L. This only I see wrong with the act of the board on the 8th inst.: They ought to have submitted the operators proposals to the men before making an agreement. I have no doubt but it would have been accepted. I think under the present circumstances it was doing good to the operators, good to the workingmen, and good to the country at large.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 31, 1893.
29. FROM RENDVILLE, OHIO
As this is the first time that I have put a letter in the paper, I will try and answer one that I saw in it lately, by a man in Murray City, O., telling the condition of the miners in this district. What he said about the miners condition was all right. He said that if we could come out as our English brother we would soon be on top. Also, our condition will improve none as long as the stream of foreign contract labor continues to pour in upon us and lower our wages, and we will continue to drift backwards as long as our colored brothers take our places while we are out with demands for our rights as they did in Raymond City, W. Va., and at Weir City, Kans. I now say to C. H. J. that there is one thing I want him to know and that is that I know of three mines in Springfield, Ill., where a colored man cannot work. If he thinks that the men of color are doing him an injury he can find places to go to where colored people do not work.
In 1879, myself and four other men were refused work at Raymond City, and if the white man would only be true to organization they would not have to take their places when they come out on strike.
There are lots of places the colored men are debarred through ignorance, but we, the miners, are going to stand by the officers as long as they are in the right, which we believe them to be. We, the miners, in this valley do not indorse the way they use the officers in the Hocking valley and Gloucester district. O, my, I forgot something. I see where Mr. Jackson says he wishes to see some of the officers moved. My brother consider, and see if you cannot afford to take some of that back. I know the most of the officers myself. As for R. L. Davis, I knew him when a boy and he always tried to act in favor of the laborer and tried to keep them together as union men. There is Pearce, then Nugent; we all know what they have done for us. We want them to remain, as they are men.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 31, 1893.
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 18.
Just a word to the union miner of Mineral Point: He seems to think that we mean wrong in regard to color. When we pronounce color on different subjects we are driven to it, by men who are not true to the organization nor are they loyal citizens. What we want is one organization all under one head, regardless of color, race or creed. No more at this time.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 21, 1893.
31. NO RACE BIAS
Influenced a Mineral Point Miner In His Late Criticism
MINERAL POINT, O., Sept. 12.—I have not the slightest notion of entering into controversy with R. L. Davis. I have read his letter in the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL of this last week and had it not been for the last clause I would not have replied. Brother Davis says: “It is because I am colored that so many of you fellows jump on me.” Brother Davis, if it had been any other of the executive board I would have done just the same, and, I suppose, they are all white, but I am glad that none of them showed their cowardice. And, in my estimation, if you had left self-vindication alone you would have been more esteemed. During this last five years we have had a number of colored miners in this locality. I have worked with them, I have lived close neighbors to some of them and their color was no offense to me. I always held myself free to associate with any of them of good behavior, but I am compelled to say that many of them I wanted to have as little to do with as possible. The ill-behavior and peevishness of many of them led me to reserve in their presence, for if anything went wrong they said: “It is because we are colored.” But, if you be the man you think you are (you say you will show any of us that you are our equal in written or oral language), show us some wisdom in letting that old phrase, “It is because of my color,” be said only by those who are less learned. I believe it may be true in some instances. I believe some have animosity to the colored race, but it is not so with me. Nationality, creed or color does not effect me in the least. I have been a reader of the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL ever since I knew of it and read your letters regularly and often sympathized with you when you said you had been ill-behaved to on account of your color, but now I believe some of these things may not have happened to you on account of color. I see you are ready to say so whether it is or not.
You will hear no more from me on this subject after this writing, but I tell you I do not think it manly of you in writing these letters in question. You acted in union with the executive board of which you form a part. Why not stand or fall with them, instead of singling yourself out and making an attempt to clear yourself of the seemingly wrong act to you that the board had done, thereby casting more blame on them? (if there had been any). But now they are justified and you will be condemned by many thinkers, if not writers. I will say no more, I take pity on account of your color.
I am glad to state there is a brighter outlook at this place, at least at Huff Run mine, operated by Ridgway-Burton company. Work has been very slack at this mine all summer, but they have paid their men regularly semimonthly during this panic.55
At Superior and Davis mines they are only working slack, and I believe it is a long time since they have had a pay day.
At Van Kirk’s and Holden’s they have done very well during these bad times. I cannot tell you as to their pay, but there is a general store connected with each. I must conclude, for I think my allotted space will be taken up. Wishing well to the United Mine Workers of America and its officials and the paper.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 14, 1893.
32. THE RENDVILLE MAN
Turns His Thoughts and Pen to Points of General Interest
When it Comes to Bread and Butter Ohio Men Are Solid
RENDVILLE, O., Dec. 17.—Work in this part of the Sunday Creek valley is somewhat slow; mine No. 3 worked only three days last week, with very dull prospects for the future, and even with this shortage of work the mine is overcrowded with men. This can be accounted for because of the shutting down of several large mines.
The question that seems to be uppermost in the minds of our men is what shall the future be? This is because of the situation of the miners in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, whose coal is said to come in direct competition with the Ohio coal. Is it possible that the men of these fields are so utterly destitute of common sense and reason as to be blind to the fact that they are working injury to the Ohio miners as well as themselves. Surely after all these years of almost incessant pleading and talking to they cannot plead ignorance, and yet what else can it be? Surely it cannot be that they are so niggardly mean as to endure starvation wages rather with pay a few pennies per month for the purpose of securing and maintaining uniform and living wages throughout the competitive field? When will the miners of this country begin to think to study and to act for their best interest? Surely the signs of the times indicate that without some very radical changes there will be trouble in the near future. This is the way things look to me. It may be that this is only an imperfection of my vision. I hope so, at least.
The press reports have it, that if there are no changes in the Pittsburg and West Virginia fields by the time the Ohio miners hold their special convention in January, that the Ohio miners will accept a similar reduction, and there are some who believe it. But, as one, I do not think that any such ideas are being entertained by the Ohio miners, nor will the convention in January be held for any such purpose, that is, if I understand the matter correctly. I think that the January convention is for the purpose of devising some means whereby the miners of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other fields may be brought together for the purpose of taking concerted action to secure a uniform and living rate of wages.
So let us hope that this will be one of the best conventions ever held by the Ohio miners. It has been intimated by some the organization in Ohio is on its last legs and that it will soon be a thing of the past. Well, now, don’t entertain any such foolish notions. Although we may have our little internal wars, petty grievances, etc., yet when it comes to the question of wages, or bread and butter, he forgets his petty jealousies and gathers unto himself his whole strength to resist any encroachments that may be made against himself or his fellowman.
And now, by way of conclusion, let me say that I hope the miners of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana and our own proud Ohio will get themselves together as we have never before and show to the world that we are men worthy of the name. With best wishes, I remain yours, for the impoverished miner.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, December 28, 1893.
Tells Our Readers Something About His Pocahontas Trip—No Fooling56
When He Says He Sincerely Believes He Would Have Become a Martyr
Had He Staid There Much Longer—Harris and Nugent Can Tell
RENDVILLE, O., May 21.—I have been asked several times why I did not stay at Pocahontas longer than I did, and to give all the proper answer I will refer them to ex-President Nugent and our friend George Harris of Pennsylvania, they can tell you as well as I can. I have at all times been willing to do anything in my power in the interest of our organization, but, boys, I am not yet ready to become a martyr to the cause, and I am confident that had I remained there much longer that would have been the result, for those blood-sucker operators down there will not hesitate to stoop to anything low and dirty to carry their point, and especially at this time when the miners at all other places are out battling for their rights. It is a picnic for these operators as long as their men continue to work, and they will do anything rather than see their slaves stop work, or do anything else in the way of asserting their rights as free men. I do not believe this is so much the case in times of peace in other regions, yet a certain amount of this spirit exists at all times they organize themselves, but when the miner makes an attempt to organize they say no; they do not only stop there but they might say, oh, he left because he was scared, but boys, let me say to you that I was then south of Mason’s and Dixon’s line, and there is but little justice for the black man anywhere, and none at all down there, and for safety I thought it would be best for me to leave and even in doing this I had to be escorted to the station, the threats being so openly made about doing me up. Yes, and they were talking of doing Harris up, too, and he is a white man you know. Now, I was born in the State of Virginia, and I know that when they threaten a white man it is an absolute certainty about the negro and he had better make himself scarce, that is, if he values his life any. I have received several letters this week and I am told that those men that were discharged have not been taken back yet. They say they are still taking in new members yet, they are all colored. They request me to ask that a Hungarian be sent there to organize the Huns and the colored will look to their own. I will say that there you find no mixing. If a meeting is called and the colored men attend it, very few white faces will be seen, and vice versa, so I hope a Hungarian organizer will be sent there as soon as possible, for if something is not done toward getting the Huns to act in the defense of those colored fellows who have been discharged it will be impossible to do anything in that region for a long while yet to come, and by doing this now it will be the means of securing a good organization there, tell them to take their tools and get out, they are disturbing the peace and quietness of the community, or in other words, that they are keeping bad company, etc. To prove this assertion, I, when there, organized a local composed of those only that were known or supposed to be good men remember. No notices were posted calling for a meeting, but it was done on the quiet by going to each individual. We got our meeting and succeeded in organizing a good little local. Next morning nearly all these men were picked out and discharged, and when they asked what they were discharged for, they were that they (the men) were dissatisfied, or that they were keeping bad company, hence they were not wanted any longer, that they could vacate their houses and come to the office and get their money. Now, all these men were colored, and I believe meant business. But you might ask how they could pick out so many and not be mistaken. I will tell you there are a number of spies throughout the region, both white and black, indeed they are so numerous that some of them are not known. Now to prove this. I have been sitting or standing at different places when maybe two or three strange fellows would come along accompanied by one of the sucks of Pocahontas, when they would get to where I was I would hear one say, there he is, or there is the s—b—. Not only that, but I have heard myself spoken of in the same way by business men when walking along the streets; besides I have heard threats made as to what they would do to me if I did not leave. Trusting that success may attend the efforts of the miners in this, their greatest effort. I am, as ever,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 24, 1894.
34. R. L. DAVIS
Sets Himself Right on the Question of Columbus Settlement
RENDV1LLE, O., July 22.—For sometime I have intended having a few words to say upon the matter that I now attempt to write upon, but on account of the storm that has been raging for the past few weeks I thought it best to keep still, but since the storm has nearly blown over and we can only at times hear the distant rumblings of the receding thunders I will try to explain myself or get an explanation. While at no time has anyone said anything to me personally with the exception of one, it has come to my ears that certain ones were surprised at the stand that I took in regard to our late settlement, or in other words that I had taken a decided stand against McBride and his associates, permit me to say that this is untrue in the extreme. This I did do, however, I did claim that the delegates to the Cleveland convention were sent there with positive instructions to vote for 70 cents and no compromise that they had no right to leave the whole matter to the district presidents and national board. My reasons for so claiming was because of the fact that the delegates themselves had not the power to compromise, and consequently had not the power to delegate that power to anyone else. So if really there be any blame it would certainly fall upon the shoulders of the delegates themselves. However, be this as it may it is only my opinion, and I have not accused McBride of any duplicity in the matter, neither have I ever said that the miners had been sold, but on the other hand have advised others who did make the charge to refrain from making such charges. The matter does not stop there, but has finally resolved itself into a church matter. Now, there are three things in the labor question that I do hate, and they are: 1. religious bigotry, 2. race prejudice, 3. political partisanism.
What right have I or any one else to question the right of another what church he belongs to? None whatever.
Of course at the time of the settlement, when the news first reached my ears, I said some things that were not very pleasant, but that has passed and is forgotten. Our friend Sullivan and myself had a little misunderstanding over the matter. He also took exceptions to some of my sayings, but when we came to talk over the matter and a thorough explanation we made everything all right.
Now, by way of conclusion, allow me to say that instead of our smart Alecks trying to create dissension in our ranks, they should do all in their power to heal the gaping wound and begin to get our forces together for the next contest, for it is surely coming, and instead of doing as some of our friends who say they will pay no more into the national treasury until those fellows get down and out, if you would look around you and notice how closely the employers are banding themselves together, you would drop such foolishness and come together as men and brethren, for you have no time to waste. So, by all means, let us have an end to this strife and contention and be men. Remember you cannot live for yourselves alone, but your fellow-men as well.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 19, 1894.
Condemns in Words of Deep Resentment the Constitution A.R.U. in Excluding Negroes
And Issues a Challenge to Any Club In the Hocking Valley to Play Base Ball
RENDVILLE, O., July 16.—For the past month I have had nothing to say through your valuable paper, because of the fact that many others were having their say in regard to the late settlement. I thought it best to keep still, inasmuch as there is seemingly always some one ready to jump on me. During the months of April, May and June the eyes of the entire country were turned on the great coal miners’ strike. The strike was no more than ended, when lo, and behold, we have another;—viz., the railroad men. Surely these great uprisings of the people mean something, and what is it? It is simply this, that the people have been ground down by capital to that extent that they can no longer endure it. We demand living wages, and of course if we cannot secure it by means of conciliation or arbitration, then as a last resort there is nothing left for us to do but to strike. But when we strike, what do we then find? We find this, that instead of having the unfair employers we have also to fight the state and national government, or in other words the militia and United States regulars. In fact it not only seems so but it is true, that those whom the people have elected to enact laws have joined hands with the money kings of the country to further oppress the already down-trodden laborer. And yet it is all our fault. After all we will not be true to ourselves and elect men from our ranks to fill these positions, but the fellow who has the most money and can set up the most beer and whisky, oh, he is the man. And so it goes, year after year, the honest man has no chance whatever. Everything and everybody is against him and, of course he is elected to stay at home. Not wishing to worry your readers further I will leave that subject. But I cannot close this already too lengthy letter without having a word to say about the American Railway union, which I consider to be the best for railway men in this country, and I hope to see it grow and prosper.57
But there is one sad mistake that has been made in it, as the other so-called railway organizations and that is the negro has been debarred from obtaining membership. Why is this? Surely gentlemen, you have sense enough to know that we were born here and intend to remain here. We are American citizens and should be treated as such. But what can you expect of the negro with this kind of treatment? Remember that he is as sensitive as any other nationality or race of people. We find that the Hungarian, Polander, Italian, Chinaman and even the lazy, shiftless Indian can be members, but an intelligent negro who was born in this country and who has helped to make the country what it is, is considered as naught, and is debarred. It is just such treatment as this that has caused the negro to take your places when you were striking. Now, if there is anything that I do despise it is a blackleg, but in places in this country that they will not allow the negro to work simply because of his black skin, then I say boldly that he is not a blackleg in taking your places; he is only doing his plain duty taking chances with the world. We ask no one to give us anything. All we want is the chance to work and we assure you we want just as much wages as the whites. Hoping to see the day when these things shall have disappeared, I am
R. L. DAVIS
P.S.—I wish to announce that the Rendville Base Ball club is willing to cross bats with any club in Perry, Hocking, or Athens counties; no exceptions. Now, who will take us up? Remember we are all church members and cannot play for a stake.
R. L. D.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 19, 1894.
Is What R. L. Davis Says the Convention on the 15th is—
Wants Men to Be Men in Reality
RENDVILLE, O., Aug. 5.—I have just finished reading the call for the convention of workingmen to be held in the city of Columbus, O., on the 15th inst. I must say that this is a step in the right direction. Now, fellow-laborers, what do you intend to do? You have seen the results of past legislation. Will you now be men enough to elect honest men from among your ranks to represent you, or will you still continue to be slaves of partyism that you know has, for the past thirty years been legislating in the interest of the rich, and against the interests of the poor? Fellow-workmen, for God’s sake let us be men. Let us send representatives to that convention. Let those men there adopt a platform of principles, and let us stick to them. Stop voting tickets because your fathers before you voted that way, and make one firm resolve to vote for honest men, for equity and justice. There is this about the workingman that I have noticed, he knows the best thing for him to do, but when election day comes around he forgets himself and votes the wrong way, everytime. I think that in the past year we have all learned a lesson. Now let us profit by it. Let us forget petty prejudices and come together as men working for the one common interest of all. I hope that this convention will be largely attended and that it may prove fruitful to labor throughout the whole country.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 9, 1894.
Of Rendville Thinks the Organization is Too Cheap—Wants Others’ Views
RENDVILLE, O., Nov. 19.—Again after a long silence I attempt to write a few lines to your valuable paper. I must confess that I hardly know upon what subject to write that would be most conducive to the best interest of our craft. However, for the purpose of drawing out the ideas of some of our modern thinkers, I will just make the claim that our organization, though the best the American miners ever had, is entirely too cheap; that is, the amount it cost each miner per month or per annum is not enough to carry on the work to a successful issue. I am well aware of the fact that while I make this claim there are many who make the counter claim that it costs entirely too much, and what surprises me most is that many of these same men came from parts of the country where they paid five times the amount they pay here, Great Britain especially. However, it is not entirely necessary to go so far as England to produce an argument in the matter. Take for instance the cigarmakers in this country who pay more into their union in three months than we pay in a year, and yet the sum paid by them is admitted by themselves to be inadquate. They are not the only ones; for instance, there are the iron and steel workers the windo-glass workers, carpenters, bricklayers and many other organizations, and yet we find none of them pay as small dues as the miners, and yet it must be admitted that to be successful in organizing the miners of this country into one organization, more field workers are needed than in any of the trades I have mentioned; nor is this all I claim that we should pay a sum sufficient to create a fund so that when we may be called out on strike that there will be something with which support those who might be so unfortunate as to be in needy circumstances, while I mention this as a precaution to be taken in case of strikes or lockouts. I also believe that had we a sufficient amount of money on hand, as we should have, we would have fewer strikes, for then the employer would not nor could he hope to depend on starving us into submission. I think no harm could be done by giving this question a little discussion for I believe as our genial Pat does, if we have a 10 cent organization we must expect 10 cent results, if we have a 25 cent or 50 cent organization we must expect like results.
Now, to do the things I have mentioned can be done by chewing and smoking a little less tobacco, and by cutting off a few glasses of beer and bad whisky; things that we can do without.
I would like to hear from some others on this who are better qualified to discuss it than myself. Yours for the amelioration of labor.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, November 22, 1894.
38. HONEST AND MANLY
Letter from Our Colored Correspondent, R. L. Davis—Defeated for Office,
But as Good Union Man as Ever
RENDVILLE, O., Feb. 25.—Times in our little image remain the same as at our last writing—no work and much destitution, with no visible signs of anything better. With only hope it will not be long until the wheels of industry begin to move for we are not that class of people who love idleness or who prefer to live at the hands of charity. Now that our national convention is over it is the duty of each and everyone of us to do our utmost to try and heal the strained relations of the past and arise in our might to build up our organization to what it should be. We have played into the hands of the great corporations long enough. We say we have hard times now, but do not forget the fact that unless we organize ourselves together as men should times will eventually be harder with us than now. Anyone who reads the daily press can see all kinds of reports, dissatisfaction, dissension and discord on all sides; that the Ohio miners will dissolve their relationship with the national organization of United Mine Workers and form an organization of their own, etc. I desire to say, and I believe I voice the sentiment of every honest miner in Ohio, that while it may be true that everything has not been satisfactory to all, yet the Ohio miners are not that class of people to tear down that which it has taken years to build up.
Having attended the last convention and having been a candidate for member of the national executive board, although I was unsuccessful, I desire to say that I never asked anyone to vote for me or asked him anything in connection with his or their votes, I am proud to say that I was defeated by a very small majority, which to my mind proves very clearly that the question of color in our miners’ organization will soon be a thing of the past. I now desire to thank all of those who favored me with their votes, trusting that the next time some great man of my race will be successful. As I said in the convention hall, I again repeat that although defeated, I am really anxious and willing to do all in my power for the upbuilding of the organization.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 28, 1895.
39. A STRONG PROTEST
From “Dick” Davis Against the Move Made by Some Men in the Sunday Creek—He Never Will be a Party to an Organization Which Debars His Race
RENDVILLE, O., July 28.—In reading over the columns of your last issue, I noticed and carefully read an article from the pen of Friend Wallace of Hollister, giving a description of the troubles in the Sunday Creek valley; also his opinion in reference to the national organization, and the aims and objects of the new valley delegation as he calls it. I don’t know what it is, but some call it the labor league, others call it the screw drivers’ union while others call it the A.A. combination. I am at a loss as to what to call it, for while writing I hold a copy of its constitution in my hand and it begins with saying as follows:
Constitution and by-laws to govern the miners and mine laborers of the Sunday Creek coal field, composed of the employees of the Ohio Central Fuel company and the operators on the C.S. & H. R’y., with preamble and principles.
Now, I don’t know whether this is a mistake or not, but it is the first labor organization of the kind that I have ever heard of where operators were one of the component parts. I cannot as yet see the utility of such an action so long as there is such a broad chasm between capital and labor. In fact, I think the whole thing a miserable mistake, and was conceived in fraud and born of corruption. It has been well said that the worst enemy that the laboring man has is under his own hat. I had intended writing upon this new organization last week, but having received a letter from Friend Wallace in reference to it, I thought I would wait until I had more reliable information, which I think I know have both in his article in your last issue and in a private letter received from him by myself. I will here state that I had written to Friend Wallace, telling him that I thought it quite essential for a combination of all the miners of the Sunday Creek valley for mutual protection, but that, if said combination was not affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America, then L.U. 398 would have nothing to do with it, for we intended to remain loyal and would not intermingle with secessionists under any circumstances, and in his reply friend Wallace grows very oratorical and thinks me a very foolish boy, although he does not say it in so many words, yet the inference to be drawn makes results the same. I claimed that the new something was composed of disloyalists. Friend Wallace says not. Well, here is what the constitution says, Article 6, Section 4, while it is necessary to be governed by a national organization, the choice shall be left with the members of this body as to what national organization they wish to be governed by. Now, this is just the part that I took exceptions to. I think it is necessary to get our forces together; it is no time for divisions and getting up new organizations to please a disgruntled few, or to suit the whims and caprices of disappointed office seekers. Fellow miners, did it never occur to your minds that while you are wrangling and quarrelling among yourselves, that the operators are laughing up their sleeves at you and quietly planning how to fleece you out of something else. Do not for a moment think that all you have to look after is the price per ton, for such is not the case, for you have other things to look after as well, or else you will find one of these days that you will be receiving a handsome reduction in the way of local conditions, &c.
Now, before closing I wish to comment on another statement made by Friend Wallace. He says that there are several national organizations that would like to take us in and do for us, and that he thinks it is a question that the miners of the country should consider, &c. He also says that to be closely allied with the railway employees all over the State of Ohio, a suspension in Ohio would be equal to a national suspension. Well, well, Friend Wallace, have you not been reading the decisions handed down of late by our supreme court judges? If you have, you have surely forgotten yourself. Again, are you not aware that there are as many scabs among railway men as among any other trades? Again, I desire to know what railway union have we in the State of Ohio that does not bar the colored man from membership? Yet you think we should allow ourselves to become affiliated with them. Well, let old Dick tell you something, that as long as the court knows itself I will never be a party to the agreement, nor will any other colored man who has any sense of respect or pride of his race, nor will he if I can bring any influence to bear upon him. I am anxious and willing to do all I can for the advancement of the cause of labor connected in any way with an organization; but I will never allow myself to become connected in any way with an organization that says I cannot become a member, and just think of it, too, I, an American citizen by birth, and many of them are not yet dry from crossing the salt water pond, and yet they have the unlimited gall to say that an American citizen shall not take part in an American institution because of the color of his skin; it makes me mad whenever I think of it, and I have no respect for the man or men who steps into a thing of the kind by holding out false hopes to them. Away with such rottenness.
Now, by way of conclusion, I will say that I believe that the members of L. U. 398 are ready and willing to join in any advancement of the cause of the craft; but so long as you continue in the spirit of disloyalty, please mark us absent.
I cannot close without saying just a word to Brother Smoot of the Flat Top region. The brother seems to think they are not receiving the support from the union miners that they should. This I am sorry to learn. But I will say to the brother that while we earnestly sympathize with them in their noble flight, we are not in a position to aid them for we are slowly starving ourselves, were it within our means to do so none would respond more quickly than we, for we know their cause is just. With best wishes for all I am as ever one in the cause.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 1, 1895.
40. WALLACE’S REPLY TO DAVIS
In Which a Few Very Worthy and Sensible Observations Are Made
HOLLISTER, O., Aug. 4.—Please allow me space in our craft’s educator for a few remarks. While I do not believe the space should be taken up in a vain controversy, I do think it necessary to reply to the remarks made by Friend Dick Davis in his protest in the issue of August 1.
I will give you the general average of the Miners at Mine 16 first, as I believe that to be the most important No. of miners, 207; No. of days, 9 amount per day, $1.65; amount per month, $14.85. Docks and overweight that miners received nothing for was 49 tons, deducting rent and supplies there is quite a small sum left. The mines seem to be in fair condition regarding ventilation, &c; do not hear many complaints, if you excuse unmeaning language.
As to friend R. L., I am pleased to see his protest, because every one should express their opinion, but we should at all times be reasonable and use good common sense. Bro. Davis, when you refer to my letter regarding the new valley delegation, the language you use makes me believe that you are laboring under an hallucination or error. The constitution you refer to has not anything to do whatever with either of those organizations you mentioned. And as to the A.A. combination I think I perceive your meaning, which remark I think unmanly and does not reach the mark intended, as A. A, Adams has been quite a while lingering between life and death from hemorrhage of the lungs. As to the criticism of the wording of the preface you, for a purpose known to yourself and others, place thereon a misconstruction which is as unreasonable as other expressions made by you. The word “of” may have been omitted through mistake by the printer or the writer of the manuscript, but it is as reasonable for the operators to be components of an organization as to be the sole beneficiaries without helping to defray the expense of same. As you refer to the letter received from me I think you should have published the letter to give the readers a more thorough understanding and allow their own conclusions. I am perfectly willing for its publication. I do not write anything that I am not willing to see in print.
Brother Davis says he thinks it quite essential for the combination or the miners of the Sunday Creek valley, but will not have anything to do with it if it was not affiliated with the U.M.W. of A. I asked Brother Davis if that was reasonable, giving the reasons why I asked the question; told him that 21 years ago I contemplated joining a labor organization; I examined its principles; they suited me, I became a member and the first lesson I learned was to be ruled by the majority. Is that any reason for him to think that I grew oratorical or thought him a foolish boy. He claims that the new something was composed of disloyalists. I claim not, yet the new valley delegation was composed by mutual agreement of a majority of the miners of the Sunday Creek valley.
As I have before stated, the proceedings of every convention that has been held for that purpose will show without regard to any of those bodies that Brother Davis mentions in his criticisms which would infer that the destiny of the miners of Mine 3 are solely in the hands of Brother Davis from the responsibility he assumes.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
[We have done our best, friend Wallace, to get your whole letter in this week, but are forced to continue it till next.—Ed.]
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 8, 1895.
41. WALLACE’S REPLY TO DAVIS
In Which a Few Very Worthy and Sensible Observations Are Made
[CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK]
Brother Davis’s criticsm on the affiliation with the railway employees reminds me of an individual whom the boys claim would tell continued stories. The stories always finished up with a quart of whisky, and Davis’s letters most always close about the abuse of his race. Now, Brother Davis, this is not for the purpose of, in anyway hurting your feelings, for I believe myself that the race you refer to is not treated humanely in some parts of the country. The colored man was debarred from the A.R.U., which was very inconsistent and, if not already, should be changed, for my belief is that this world is my country, every man is my brother and to do good is my religion, and I belong to an organization with principles broad enough, long enough, deep enough, charitable enough and liberal enough to embrace in its folds all of nature’s creatures, whose motto is, “An injury to one is the concern of all.” I was a member when that grand old man Uriah S. Stevens was general master workman; was a member when Terrence V. Powderly was general master workman, and a member when James R. Sovereign is master workman and would still be a member if R. L. Davis were general master workman. It is not leaders of an organization that workingmen should follow but the principles.58
Yes, Brother Davis, I have read with sorrow the decision handed down of late by the supreme court judges, which is enough to show you or any other rational man that the two old political parties are the guardians of capital and not of labor, and that Debs and his associates were sent to jail contrary to the constitution of the United States, and sets a precedent dangerous to the liberties of the American people, a government by injunction; and I also read of a young woman in Washington City, D.C., daughter of a retired army officer, or some other capitalistic fool, taking deliberate aim and shot a colored boy, killing him, for trying to get some fruit off their trees, gave herself up to the authorities and was acquitted. How long, O Lord, how long, will a patient people put up with monopoly rule? Is it not about time, Brother Davis, that we stop this nonsensical quarreling and stand by our unions and by the political party of our own class in order that we may be able to strike economically for our labor and politically at the ballot box for our temporary improvement and for our ultimate emancipation?
Now, as regards THE JOURNAL, I say above all things, at all times and on all occasions, defend, uphold and patronize our own craft paper, and all other papers that uphold the dignity of labor, and do not support a newspaper that does not uphold the dignity of labor. It is labor that should have the daily papers instead of monopoly, laboring men, why not have a daily paper? Why support the Associated Press, that is controlled by monopoly or run by some political machine? It is only buying weapons for your enemy’s army.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 15, 1895.
That is What R. L. Davis Wants to Know—The Company Objects to Him Being Checkweighman
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 29.—Not having troubled you for some time I beg a small space that I may let your many readers know of the treatment that the writer has been receiving for the past few months. To do this, it will be necessary to go back to last winter. On January 26 last Mine 3 was closed down, and the miners, not having earned anything of consequence while working were in straitened circumstances. Some time during the latter part of March or the first of April, Dame Rumor had it that Mr. Rend had stated that he would start Mine 3 upon certain conditions, and those conditions were that I should be removed as checkweighman. I called President Penna’s attention to the matter and he held an interview with Mr. Rend on the matter, and he informed me that Mr. Rend denied any such intentions. With this the matter dropped, and nothing more was thought of it until some time in June, when Mr. D. S. Williams, the superintendent, came here and stated to some of the men that the mine would be started if I was removed; otherwise, it would lie idle all summer. It reached my ears, and I immediately went to the superintendent and asked him about it and what the causes were. He told me that it was Mr. Rend’s desire for me to be removed as checkweighman. The response he did not know, but that if he were in my place and wanted to see the mine resume work, he would get down for awhile at least. I studied and concluded that if by my getting down was the only means of getting the mine started, I would do so, provided an investigation of the matter was had. About June 23 or 24, Mr. Williams wired, asking for a meeting. The meeting was called and he was present. The chairman called on him. He arose and started off by asking the question, “How long has it been since you men have worked?” He was answered, “Five months.” He then said that he had not much to say, but that Mr. Rend had two mines idle, No.’s 1 and 3; that it was optional with him as to which of them was started, but that he had a few requests to make and on the actions of the miners would rest whether Mine 3 would resume or not. His requests were as follows:
1st. That the men would send clean coal.
2d. That they would get all their supplies from the company, which they would sell them as cheap as any one else.
3d. That I should be removed as the checkweighman.
After he was through I got up and made a statement of some of the troubles that we had had at the mine, and also said that I would voluntarily get down if the starting of the mine rested on that alone, with the understanding that an investigation was had, that I had no desire to jeopardize the interest of 200 or more men for my own individual interest.
Mr. Williams promised to do all he could to secure an investigation. The miners accepted the propositions and work was resumed. June 26 a resolution was also adopted in that meeting to place the matter in the hands of officers for investigation. After this everything went on I suppose smoothly, until on or about the 20th inst., when Mr. Williams came up again and stated that he had heard that I was going to run for checkweighman, and that if the men elected me that the mine would be closed down. I did not hear him make this statement, but it got circulated, and oh! what a scare. Men who had been after me to run for the position began to take the back track. Such a stampede you never saw. I wanted to read certain letters that I had from the officers, but could not get to do it, for reasons unknown to me. So the old boy was defeated, the men most all saying they wanted me, but they wanted the question settled first by the officers.
Now, I certainly want this matter investigated. I want to know what I have done. I have done nothing that I am ashamed of. I have always tried to be honest and manly in the performance of my duties, hence I am not afraid of investigation. Some say the cause is my writing to the JOURNAL, others say it is because of my persistence in organized labor, etc. I want to know myself what it is and at that as soon as possible. I trust the officers will take the matter up, for I do not like the position I am placed in.
In conclusion, I must say to friends Costlett and Richards that they have at last taken the right step, and that all miners of the Sunday Creek valley should join you. I shall use my every effort in this direction. Yours for organized labor.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 3, 1895.
43. COULDN’T TELL
If He Were Asked, How the People Live at Rendville, Says R. L. Davis
RENDVILLE, O., March 9.—After a long silence I will again attempt to write a few lines to let your many readers know how things are moving along down here. Our mines are practically doing nothing, one and one-half days per week is about all and turn slow at that. Were anyone to ask how we manage to live I am sure I could not tell.
I have just concluded reading President O’Connor’s address which I consider an able one. With such able men as this I cannot see how it is that the miners of Illinois cannot get themselves more solidly together. I have often thought of Indiana with her Purcell, Kennedy and others; of Illinois with her O’Connor, Crawford, Guymon and others; of Pennsylvania with her host of able men that are too numerous to mention, and yet seemingly all to no effect. Why is this? It cannot be other than gross negligence and ignorance on the part of the miners, for which there is no excuse. I hope to see the day when the miners of this country will place themselves in a position that they may be able to command a fair share of the wealth that they create. It cannot be done though as long as we allow ourselves to be divided. Come boys, let us get a hustle on ourselves and get together, it is never too late to do good. Wishing our organization success, I am as ever for justice and humanity.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 12, 1896.
44. CASE OF R. L. DAVIS
RENDVILLE, O., March 7.—There is nothing encouraging in the local trade to report from this end of the Sunday Creek valley. It is the same old story; plenty of idle time. But we are in hopes of a revival of trade in the near future.
The case of R. L. Davis against A. B. Merser, a hotel keeper at Corning, Perry county, O., came up for trial week before last, and P. H. Penna, W. H. Haskins, W. C. Pearce, M. D. Ratchford and the writer were summoned as witnesses on the case. It will be remembered by the readers of the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL that on about August 22 last we had made arrangements for a mass meeting in Corning, and invited the above named officers to be present. They all arrived on the forenoon train, and R. L. Davis went down to meet them and after a friendly shake hands all round, the officers started to the hotel for dinner, and invited Mr. Davis to accompany them. He accepted the invitation and was granted the privilege of registering his name, and after doing so he was told by the clerk that he could not allow a colored man to eat in the hotel.
Davis asked the reason and was told that there were some people from West Virginia staying with them and they would get insulted. Penna, Ratchford and Haskins had by this time got seated at the table, and were waiting for Mr. Davis to arrive, and thinking that there was something wrong, they asked the clerk what was the matter, and he told them that he wouldn’t allow any colored man to eat at his table. It was then that our officers showed that true union principle that should characterize all true members of our craft, for they refused to eat dinner and went elsewhere. Davis consulted a lawyer and was advised to enter suit at once, which he did. The case is not settled yet and when it is the readers of the JOURNAL will know all about it.
D. H. SULLIVAN
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 22, 1896.
From Our Colored Member of the National Executive Board, R. L. Davis, Promises to Do His Utmost
A Few Tart Words on the Conduct of the Men at Murray City, Ohio
RENDVILLE, O., April 18.—I will again ask a small space in your valuable paper to at this time thank the miners for their kind support in electing me as a member of the executive board of the U.M.W. of A. I can only say that should I be given the opportunity, I will try to use my every effort for the elevation of our craft. The financial condition of the organization at this time, however, is of such a nature that other members of the board as well as myself will have to remain at home. I trust that the miners of the country in general will look to their interest, for, boys, you know what it takes to make the mare go.
Let us now, since we have elected our officials, each and everyone give to them our very best support individually and collectively; by doing this I think that our next meeting we can find a better condition of affairs.
We have been very earnestly watching Brother Haskins’s trouble at Murray City, O., and I am sorry that the men were so blind to their own interests as to sacrifice one who had the moral courage to defend their rights. Fellowmen do you know what you are doing? If you are honest, if you are a liberty-loving people, then you have made the mistake of your lives in this matter. When I first heard of this trouble and learned of its nature, I thought surely you would not do other than give Haskins your entire support, but lo, you supported the other fellow in whom you had no interest whatever.
If we continue on in this way it will not be very long until we cannot get an honest man to serve as a checkweighraan. We believe Mr. Haskins a good and efficient man; in fact we know him to be such, and consequently did not deserve such treatment as he received. Boys, let us get closer together as miners and watch our interests better in the future than in the past. Again thanking the miners for their kind favors, and trust that we may be able to prove our worthiness during the next year, I am yours for the cause of the emancipation of the wage slaves of the land.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, April 23, 1896.
46. R. L. DAVIS, MEMBER OF EXECUTIVE BOARD
R. L. Davis is a full-blooded colored man. He was born in the city of Roanoke, Va., December 24, 1863. He began work at eight years of age in a tobacco factory; and worked at that trade until he was 17 years of age, going to school in the winter months. He began to work in the mines in the State of West Virginia along the New River and Kanawha, and remained in that district until 1882, when he removed to Rendville, O., where he has since remained. He was elected a member of the executive board of District 6, United Mine Workers of America, April 1890, and served continuously until 1895.
His education seems to be fair, at least he is a good reader, and writes a very good hand, and as our readers know, composes a very good letter. But it is impossible to find what there is in a man—unless you are a phrenologist, or a physiognomist—unless he engages you in controversy, or animated conversation, or lectures you. We have never had the pleasure of either with R. L. We cannot say whether his letters are in the nature of a combination of well remembered phrases, impressed on the memory at some remote time in the past, or whether they are the spontaneous utterances of an original mind. Were Brother Davis a conversationalist, or controversialist, we should long ere this have known which of these his letters manifested, but as he has never had occasion, or perhaps we have not, to engage him in this manner, it is difficult for us to tell. Nevertheless, his letters evince originality or talent—talent of memory—and having cultivated it, he now enjoys the reward of his labor in being the representative of his race on the executive board of the United Mine Workers of America, for it would be too much to say that he has been signalled out from among the vast number of men of all races represented in the United Mine Workers of America, for exceptional ability. The fact is that Dick (as he is familiary known) was elected because he is a good representative of his race and because the miners believe that the colored men of the country should be recognized and given a representative on the board. At the same time it is only fair to say that he promises to give just as good service as any other man that might be elected, for albeit he is not exceptionally talented he possesses the average ability in the way of book learning and has other qualifications that hardly any other man in the organization owns. He will in a special way be able to appear before our colored miners and preach the gospel of trade unionism and at the same time will be able to prove to our white craftsmen how much progress might be made with very limited opportunities. We have heard him speak in conventions on several occasions, and he has generally given a good account of himself. We trust that by the time the next convention rolls around that Dick will have proven the wisdom of his selection. We will say this, that if it be a good principle to recognize races or nationalities on the board in preference to individuals, per se, the convention has done well to elect Dick, for he has certainly merited this recognition. In fact, he has merited it from either standpoint, for as a man, and more especially as a union man, he has deserved well of the miners of the country. We wish him success and hope to congratulate both him and the organization at the end of the year on the work he will have done in its behalf.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, April 23, 1896.
That’s What Davis Says His Letters Are—He is a Representative of His Race and Proud of the Honor and Thankful
RENDVILLE, O., April 27.—In the last issue of your valuable paper, ye editor, in writing concerning the newly elected officers, in my opinion, did it well, and we must congratulate you for your very able effort. I must say, however, that ye editor seems to know more about me than I do myself, hence, you must be both a phrenologist and a physiognomist, i.e., if I know what those two big words mean. In regard to my being a conversationalist or not, I can only say that I have at all times avoided engaging myself in animated conversation only with those whom I have a thorough acquaintance, for, I believe that too much tongue is not conducive of any good. As conversationalist, I will say that I have been engaged in controversy in newspapers and otherwise, and at all times tried to defend my position, but I have a dislike for these things and have several times promised to not do it again. You say that you cannot tell whether our letters are in the nature of a combination of well remembered phrases impressed on the memory at some remote time in the past or whether they are the spontaneous utterances of an original mind. I can assure you that be they ever so poor they are original, and I think ye editor knows it well. In reference to being the representative of my race, etc., I assure you and the miners of the country in general, that I am proud of this manifestation of kindness in recognization of my people, and not only am I proud, but my people also. I know that a great deal has not been said publicly, but I do know that our people are very sensitive, and upon many occasions I have heard them make vigorous kicks against taxation without representation. Now, then, they cannot kick this year, for although the representative himself may be a poor one, it is representation just the same, and I assure you that I shall try to so act that those who elected me shall not be made to feel ashamed.
Work here is a thing the past. I don’t know what we are going to do. We can’t earn a living, and if we steal it we will be persecuted. So if some one will kindly tell us what to do we will be very thankful.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, April 30, 1896.
Is Brother R. L. Davis In the Home of His Friends—Dick’s Unionism is Too Aggressive
For Some of the People of Rendville, Who Ask For His Discharge
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 8.—As far as we can learn all the miners that suspended work on the 20th of last month for the restoration of scale rates are still idle except Mine 3 of this place. It is useless to go over the entire history of the trouble, but no sooner had the mass meeting held August 20 adjourned than the dissatisfied element who were opposed to stopping began to scheme among themselves to break away and demanded a meeting of the miners of Mine 3 to be held on the same afternoon. This meeting was composed almost entirely by the kickers, and they resolved to go to work next day. It happened that the drivers and day men were not willing to go to work at less than scale rates, and decided to remain idle until the same was secured, so there was no work the next day, nor for a week thereafter, during which time these uneasy fellows continued to devise ways for going to work. They finally resolved that they would go to work at any cost and that if the drivers and day men persisted in remaining idle then they would take their places. They did more than this, they were mean enough to go to the superintendent and tell him that Sam Martin and myself on the part of the miners were responsible for the actions of the drivers and day men and requested our discharge; that if this was done everything would move along O.K.
I am sorry to say that those who did this were men of my own race. Just how they could stoop so low I am unable to tell, and some of them, if not all, call themselves Christians or children of the Most High God, but in reality they are the children of his satanic majesty, for none others could commit such a dastardly deed as to try to starve a fellow-man’s wife and family because he would join with them in their nefarious work. I can only say that it is the first time in the history of my life where men sought the removal of one of their number to keep him from blacklegging, and I am sure that it was quite unnecessary for them to have been so devilish particular.
I do not want it understood that all our colored men here are of this stamp, for such is not the case. We have some good colored men here as true as can be found anywhere, while on the other hand we have some as mean men as ever breathed. These fellows we have been enabled to hold down until recently, by reason of a lack of interest on the part of the major portion of our men, and the consequence is that the wrong parties now hold the reins of government, and their ruling will no doubt tend to prove detrimental to the interest of every miner throughout the Hocking valley and probably throughout the state of Ohio.
I knew we had men here who were mean enough for most anything, but had anyone told me that they would have done as they have, I would have disputed him or her in the most vigorous terms. These men will some day be compelled to go elsewhere to work, and, while I do not believe in entertaining the spirit of retaliation, I do believe that miners should know with whom they have to deal. By way of conclusion I will say that a great deal has been said of a letter of mine recently containing a touch of negro and Irish dialect. It has been inferred that it was an attempt to throw or cast odium upon these two nationalities. While nothing of the kind was ever intended, it was only a conversation of two individuals, and I so stated in my letter; and again, no sane man could for a moment think that I would say or do anything that would reflect discreditably upon the negro (which race I am not ashamed to own that I belong to), and so far as the Irishman is concerned, some of my best friends are of that nationality, so why should I try to do anything to injure them? The fact is, everything was cut and dried, and when a man wants to find fault he can always find an opportunity. That’s all. Will write again when we find a stopping place.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 10, 1896.
49. WORKING STEADILY
At Rendville, Ohio, But Earnings Are Very Small—R. L. Davis Declines Nomination for the District Vice Presidency
RENDVILLE, O., Dec. 14.—It was with sadness that I read of the death of the esteemed correspondent known as “Laurence Gardner” in your last issue. We shall miss her valuable information given from time to time in the columns of the only miners’ organ, viz: the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL. Would to God we had a few more such women, for surely it would make the world better.
The miners here are working every day, though I have heard no complaints of too much earnings. We have been watching for results in the Pittsburgh field, and hope that something may be done to make times better. Surely the miners have had time to learn the evil effects of not being organized, for no other craft has suffered so much during the past few years; and I hope that we may get ourselves together once more so as to be in position to demand and obtain living wages.
I desire to say by way of conclusion that I have been notified that I have been nominated for member of the national executive board; also for vice-president of district 6. After carefully considering the matter, I have concluded to decline to be a candidate for vice-president of district 6, for good reasons, though I desire to thank those who were so kind as to consider my name for the position. I shall, however, allow my name to stand for a member of the national board, and place myself in the hands of my friends. I have not as yet got work; others can get all the work they want, but I, who have never harmed anyone to my knowledge, must take chances with winter and the chilly blasts without the privilege of a job so as to earn a morsel of bread for my wife and little ones. Hoping for better times soon.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, December 17, 1896.
That the Miners of Corning and Rendville Reorganized is Brother R. L. Davis
Advises All Others to Follow Their Example
RENDVILLE, O., Feb. 27.—Since the inception of the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL I have tried to inform its many readers of the news of this vicinity, the mining news especially, and such other matters as I thought would be of interest to the craft in general. I know that these letters are not at all times enjoyed becaude they tell the old, old story, but, nevertheless, I am compelled to follow the same old strain.
I have heard men ask the question what good has the miners’ organization ever done the miner? This, in my opinion, is not a hard question to answer, though to answer it in its entirety would consume a great deal of time. My answer is a short one. Organized labor has been the means of bringing about every reform that has been made in the labor world. Every law that has been enacted in the interest of labor has been the result of organized labor, but I think there is a better way of answering this question at least a more effective way, and that is to tell the first fellow who asks you the same question to go to West Virginia or Pennsylvania, or even to some mining camps in Ohio where there is no organization and if he cannot then see for himself at a glance what the effects of being unorganized is, you may set that fellow down as being very dull of understanding.
In my mind there is no room for argument over this question, and the man who is opposed to organization is either grossly ignorant or too niggardly mean to do that which he himself believes to be right, he would rather stand idly by and enjoy whatever advantages that might be gained by others, this fellow is a coward and a knave.
Then we have another fellow who has a prejudice against somebody he won’t join, and uses his best endeavors to keep others from joining. He would rather allow himself to be robbed of from 25 to 50 cents per day than pay 15 cents per month into the organization. This fellow is a—well, he has no sense. Now, say, I don’t want any one to take too much of this upon themselves, for I have had too much trouble in this way already.
I am glad to note that the miners of Corning and Rendville have again connected themselves with the organization, and I hope this time to stay. I had never thought for a moment that they would have staid out as long as they did, but some men had to learn a lesson, hence the delay.
I hope chat some movement may be brought about to get our people out of their present predicament. They themselves are innocent of having brought about the present condition of things, but they were forced upon them by others who had long established the pernicious system of cutting rates, and these people were forced to do likewise or starve, and for the sake of their families they chose the former.
I hope to see better times for the miners as a whole, but I fear unless we change our tactics and take a hand as men should we may have to wait a long while.
Hoping that I have not intruded upon too much of your space, will write again, I remain,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 11, 1897.
51. R. L. DAVIS
Of Rendville Breaks the Silence of the Last Couple of Weeks On His Part
By Once More Advising His Fellow Miners to Do Their Duty by the Organization
RENDVILLE, O., March 8.—After a long silence I again trouble you with a few lines. Work in this part of the valley is very poor. Mine 8 is idle on account of water in the mine, and do not know when they will do anything. Mine 3 working a half day now and then, or in fact just about enough to make the men sore and stiff each time they go into the mine. They are not making a living by any means, for that is out of the question. The Congo mine, about a mile and a half from here, is the only mine in this part that is doing anything. They are doing fairly well, and it is a pity that more men cannot be employed there, but all men cannot expect to work in one mine. They are now making another opening to this mine which, when completed, will give employment to a goodly number of men in the near future. I must say that when this mine was first opened many harsh words were said against it, and I said my share, but I must say that in my opinion it is the best mining camp in this part of the valley. The men are treated civilly and gentlemanly. I have heard no complaints from this source. Our organization is recognized, and if there is a grievance the matter is adjusted by the mine committee and company’s officials, that is, if it is not of too broad a nature, then the subdistrict officials are called to advise in the matter.
I say these things in justice to the company because of what I have said in years gone by, and further because of the fact that my business called me there not long since, and I could not have been treated better by company or miners. Another matter is, I do not know of another company that gave to each head of a family a big fat turkey for their dinners on Thanksgiving day, as was done at Congo. I believe in giving the devil his due. I have been much pleased with the letters of friend Helm of Nelsonville, and to the establishment of a defense fund. It is the one thing needed by the miners of this country, most of all, with one possible exception, and that is unity. It seems that with the few miners who are organized the greater number want something cheap. They want a defense fund if it can be gotten up on the plan of paying 10 cents per month and drawing out $1 or more. It is to be hoped that our people may soon get their eyes opened to see the necessity of having an organization both numerically and financially strong. I think the miners in this country should have an organization second to none in the civilized world. We ought to have it. We can have it and we will have it, if those who now proclaim themselves to be union men will only do their duty as men should.
Before closing this I want to say a word along the lines of friend Incog’s in reference to holidays. Yes, Incog, I am with you, but you forget the day I love most, and that is emancipation day. By all means let us celebrate the day when the shackles were cut loose and 4,000,000 of black men were liberated from the galling yoke of chattel slavery. Yes, add this day and we are with you heart and soul. Will have more to say at some future time.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 11, 1897.
52. R. L. DAVIS
Reviews Conditions in West Virginia and Requests the Success Met With in That Field in Having the Working Miners Join Their Striking Brothers.
RENDVILLE, O., Sept. 6.—Since our long silence we will ask your indulgence to allow the writing of a few lines to your valuable paper. We have just returned from the West Virginia fields, where we have been laboring incessantly trying to get these people to join us in the suspension brought about for the purpose of securing something like living wages, and when we say that we have risked all kinds of dangers in trying to fulfill our duties we tell no untruth, for we assure you, gentle reader, that it was like taking one’s life in his hands at times. While we never had any injunctions issued against us, we had men and Winchesters against us which were in most cases just as effective, and if you want proof just ask W. L. Green for he knows all about it, I will tell you all later.
We want to say in reference to the Virginia miners, that while they have some men among them who are true and tried, they also have another set who are the most ignorant and mean of all, and to call them slaves is putting it mildly. Anything this boss says is all right, and no talk done by an organizer seems to have any effect, at least in times like these, and we know we had some of the best men in the country down there, but all to little avail. The miners in the Flat Top, when we first went there quit, but it was only for a short time, and they were scared back into the mines, except in a few cases, and these were discharged for taking part in the movement, and they are there today without work or assistance.
Along the Kanawha and New River districts we have a goodly number of men out, and these people have acted nobly, except at Loup Creek, Anstead, Stone Cliff and other places where we were unable to reach them.
We will write more of this matter later on, for we don’t want to be accused of writing a long letter, so excuse us for a week, if you please.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 9, 1897.
53. R. L. DAVIS
Reports Conditions in the Kanawha Field, and Sends an Editorial That Appeared in the Charleston Gazette of a Recent issue, in Which a Gross Injustice is Done the Mine Workers’ Association.
MONTGOMERY, W. Va., Oct. 17.—I will again attempt to write a few words in reference to the conditions existing in the Kanawha valley. On Friday a convention was held here, to hear the report of the committee who attended the joint meeting of operators and miners, at Charleston, Thursday, and after hearing of the mean treatment accorded President Ratchford and the committee and the evident desire on the part of the operators, to whip the miners into submission, a resolution was unanimously passed to continue the strike with renewed vigor. The men are firm, generally speaking. There are, however, about three at Edgewater who have been striving to get a few of the weaker ones to make a break.
One of these things came down to Montgomery here this morning and some of the men got after him and made him join the bird gang. He sought refuge in the house of Mr. Montgomery and had to remain there until officers came to escort him home, and they could not find him for some time. Some say he found a room in the house that the owner didn’t know was in it.
I do not think a break will be made tomorrow as President Robinson and myself with others visited Edgewater this afternoon and we were assured that such would not be the case. We will go there at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning with the band and several hundred men as a precautionary measure.
We attended a meeting at Cannellton last evening also one at Montgomery this evening.
Enclosed find editorial taken from the Charleston Gazette. It will show how much sympathy these papers have for us, and yet we buy them. This is one of the three articles, and one of the others is even more bitter than this:
“The Kanawha miners who persist in the disastrous strike can no longer lay claim to the sympathy of the Community. The operators are willing to deal with them on a just and honorable basis. They went on a strike without a grievance of their own and merely out of sympathy with Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Ohio and Pennsylvania miners have returned to work. They have no sympathy evidently with the Kanawha miners. The operators have conceded a wage scale that is perfectly satisfactory. There is no matter of importance in dispute between employer and employe. The men who engaged in the strike will be taken back in good standing. No persecution, no boycott, no bad blood. Mr. Ratchford demands that the operators shall place themselves in the power of the U.M.W. association. The operators in the light of the past, and in view of existing conditions, would not be justified in doing anything of the kind. The Pennsylvania and Ohio miners might quarrel with their bosses and the Kanawha miners who would have no quarrel with their bosses might feel compelled to walk out again. The U. M. W. association is controlled by Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the interests of the operators and the miners are inimical to the interests of West Virginia so long as the Kanawha men elect to serve a foreign controlled organization in opposition to the interests of the local community, they cannot expect either sympathy or support. They should go to work.”
I will not trouble you further, excuse long letter.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 21, 1897.
54. R. L. DAVIS
The Sage of Rendville Gives Some Good Advice to our Fellow-Craftsmen—And Also Speaks a Good Word for the Defense Fund
RENDVILLE, O., Feb. 21.—Well, ye Editor, almost all of our people are talking war and so forth. I am free to admit that I don’t know much about war, but judging from statistics I am of the opinion that it is a very quick way to become a little angel, so all who want to go to war with poor, old, dilapidated but impudent Spain, can go ahead. I shall, while it is all talk, content myself in jotting a few lines to the miners’ best and—I came near saying—only friend.59
Work in any of the mines is a scarce article, one and two days being the most, and yet you can hear some poor dunce say we don’t need the eight-hour day; that a man is free and should do as he pleases, etc. Well, such fellows are not worth talking to or about, so we will let the matter rest at that.
We have been trying to keep up with the Hazleton murder trial as best we could, and would like to see every mother’s son of them, Martin and deputies, get the full extent of the law, and a duty devolves upon each and every miner, and that is to see that they are presented by the laws of the land and not acquitted at the dictation of soulless corporations, for the time has come when men must be men or else we must sink to a level to which there is no hope of redemption.
Our defense fund is another thing that should not be neglected. I have heard a good many express themselves on the subject and most of them favor its establishment; but, of course we must have a niggardly few to oppose it with no other reason than that they will have to pay the 25 cents per month more than they are now paying; but I hope that the rank, and file of our miners will see the necessity of the thing and let us have it.
I could go on at length to give reasons for its establishment, but others more able than I have already spoken so I will say no more on that subject.
By way of conclusion, for I don’t want to worry you too much, let me admonish all miners to at all times give to our officers that support which they so richly deserve, and without which it is an impossibility to succeed. Attend your local meetings, pay your dues, don’t be so dishonest as to have 200 men working in your local all paying their share and reporting only 100 or 151, for when you do this you are cheating yourselves as much as anybody else, if not more.
I hope no one will take offense at this, but it is free, and has been done already, and I want to see it stopped. I shall say this before I quit, that those who adopt this practice have always had their troubles and demanded the attention of the officers.
Boys, be good, don’t do it any more. More anon.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 24, 1898.
55. R. L. DAVIS
Briefly Reviews Conditions in Connection With Organization And The Defense Fund
Mr. D. B. Wilson, of Congo, left last week to take charge of a mine, at Poteau, I.T., I am informed. We can say for the gentleman that we wish him success in his new situation. We have known him for quite a number of years, and have always found him a gentleman in every sense of the word.
Well, in every issue of the JOURNAL, I notice a discussion as to the most successful way to establish and maintain a defense fund. Go ahead, boys, it is the best way in the world, “to be sure you are right, and then, go ahead,” but let me further state, that we should not spend too much time talking now, as we know, we cannot get it arranged just now, but we can get it started and in time perfect it in all its details.
I hear a great many of our people asking, what will be the situation in Ohio, on April 1st, etc? I am still of the opinion that it is best to not cross the bridge until we get to it. Let us hope that there will be no trouble, but in the event if it does come, let us be prepared for it.
I will not trouble you longer, Mr. Editor, as I am sick, and I suppose you are tired. Will write later.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 3, 1898.
56. R. L. DAVIS
Of Rendville, the Colored Sage, Writes Feelingly of the Defeat of the Defense Fund Proposition
RENDVILLE, O., March 17.—Well! well! well! Who would have thought it? Surely it must be a mistake that the miners have by a majority vote of more than two thousand decided to have no defense fund. I did not expect a unanimous vote in its favor, but I did expect to see it established by a handsome majority. When President Ratchford in his annual address recommended the establishment of a defense fund, and assured us that if we gave to him the necessary implement of war in the way of a good, strong financial backing, he would at the expiration of the present year show to the world that the miners of an organization such as no other trade could even dream of having. While these are not his exact words, the purport is similar. I must confess my utter astonishment at the actions taken. To take a retrospective view, last July, when our miners came out on strike, what did they have? What had they to hope for, and what could they have gained had it not been for the other trades organizations and other sympathetic friends who went into their treasuries and pockets and contributed so liberally as to make success an assured fact? This alone was sufficient proof of our needs. Fellow-miners, we should look well to what we do, as our every act is watched with care by our opponents. We must lay aside selfishness, petty jealousies and prejudice, and look to our common interest.60
Well, I see the trial of Sheriff Martin and his deputies has ended in acquittal. It is as we expected that the miner has no rights that the coal barons are bound to respect. Surely, oh Heaven, this condition of things will not last forever. Yes, and we are all talking of going over to free Cuba. I would like to see poor Cuba freed, but would like better to free myself, the same with every other American coal miner. Boys, get a move on yourselves, for if you don’t the day may soon come when it will be almost too late.
Well, I don’t want to get too lengthy for, if I do, no space will be left for such eminent writers as Scalfe Kennedy and others.
Oh, by the way, to hear from our old friend D. H. Sullivan reminds one of ye good olden times. Let us hear from you more often in the future, friend Sullivan.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 24, 1898.
Of Rendville Writes Interestingly of Conditions in the Sunday Creek Valley of Ohio
RENDVILLE, O., April 3.
That day long looked for and prayed for by the miners has come and gone, viz., April 1, at which time the eight-hour day was to go into effect.61
The miners throughout the Sunday Creek valley very appropriately celebrated the event. The miners of mine 8 jollified at Corning, while the Congo miners jollified at home. The writer was invited to address both meetings, but owing to the roads being so muddy and being too poor to ride on the railroad cars we could not attend the meeting at Corning. The boys of Corning had a good time and everything went off pleasantly. I am informed that at Congo the boys had a fine time with music and speech-making, and, by the way, they had music at Corning also. I might add that while our boys were jubilant, all is not well, for a good deal of dissatisfaction yet exists. In the first place the miners here have always commenced work at 7 o’clock fast time. Now the companies insist on commencing at 7 o’clock standard time, which is half an hour later. They also insist that one hour be given for dinner and stop at 4 o’clock. Again, the miners have commenced firing half an hour before quitting time. The companies now insist that they do not fire until 4 o’clock. This means nearly ten hours for the miner to remain in the mines and is unfair. In fact, I can see no reason for these changes, unless it be that the companies want to have the men come out late in the evening, so that they will not enjoy the sunlight but little more than they previously did. I see nothing it it but contrariness, that is all.
I must say that at Congo everything is moving off smoothly. They start at 7 o’clock and work continuously until 3 o’clock, then stop. The men are satisfied at this and it is surprisingly strange that the same cannot be done in the other mines.
Well, I expect I had better stop, for I can’t get work here today because of my advocacy of right vs. wrong, and now for two years almost they have been giving me lessons how to live on wind. Well, I don’t care for myself, but it is those innocent little children of mine that I care for, and yet they say this is free America.
Hoping that all will end well for the miners of our country, if we have one.
I am as ever,
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, April 14, 1898.
58. OLD DOG REPORTS
Work at Congo Poor and Price of Living Advancing
Also Speaks a Kind Word for a Friend and Offers Some Suggestion For His Benefit
CONGO, O., May 8.—Editor Journal: Since I do not trouble you often I hope you will allow me a small space in the miners’ friend for a few words.
Work in these parts is not so good as we would like to see it, especially at this time of the year. Very little is earned and the cost of everything is going up, so without a change I can’t see how we poor miners are going to make it.
Mr. Editor, I notice our old true and tried friend, R. L. Davis, walking around. He can’t get work in the mines and he says he can’t get any work to do as organizer. Why this should be I cannot see. Dick, as he is familiarly called, has always been a staunch union man. He has done more to get the colored miners into the organization and hold them than any other man that I know of in this part of Ohio. He has labored long and earnestly to build up the union, when men who now hold official positions had fallen by the wayside and would not dare utter a word in defense of the cause for fear of losing their jobs, but Dick always stuck to his post through thick and thin and because of his manhood along this line he is being fought with that most dastardly weapon, most commonly known as the black list. Knowing the man as I do I think he should be provided for in some way. I want to say right now that you do not often meet up with colored men like Dick, who have his grit in them, and it is only on account of his strong union principles that he is placed in the position he is in today. Again, in this field there is not one colored man but who pays to the union and it is largely due to his persistent efforts that this has been brought about, every man in this section will bear me out in this, white and black. He has a family to keep and I think we owe to him something. He nor his children cannot live on wind, and further, if he was a white man he would not be where he is—mark that—but being a negro he does not get the recognition he should have. I want to say further that such treatment will not tend to advance the interest of our union, but will retard its progress and cause colored men to look with suspicion upon it. Now, as a colored man myself, I do not want any thing more than this: Give us an equal show. Dick deserves better usage. I would not write as I do, but I have talked with him and he feels sorely disappointed. He says he thought that the organization would afford him something to do, and I think so too. It will be as little as our officers could do to help him in this way, since we know that it is because of his love of unionism that has brought him and his family to almost want. For my part, I think if we would do right he could either go in the mines to work or we would see to it that he was started up in a small business or given field work. I want President Ratchford to show to all colored men that he values a man as a man irrespective of his color and he can best do this by giving Dick, a helping hand.
I hope you will excuse my bad writing and language and also method of speaking, but I believe in calling a spade a spade. I am sure we are not being treated just as we should be. I will write again soon if this escapes the waste basket. I remain the
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 12, 1898.
59. R. L. DAVIS
Of Rendville Breaks the Silence of a Few Weeks and Recounts His Experience While Canvassing for the Journal
RENDVILLE, O., June 12.—Editor Journal: After a long silence, I will once more attempt to write a few lines to let the readers of your valuable paper know how things are in this neck of the woods. The mines have been working fairly steady for the past three weeks, but don’t know how long it will continue. The writer started out a few days ago to secure more readers for the Journal. We started at Nelsonville, and canvassed two mines, viz., the Hocking Valley mine and the Poston new mine, but owing to the very poor work that they have been having, and the indebtedness of the miners we did not secure very many subscribers, although we had the assistance of such men as our friends Wm. Riddle, A. L. Steinrod, I. N. Coleman, Fred Powell, Edward Lett and others who did all in their power to help us in our canvass. Indeed men could not do more than they did. Oh, yes; I forgot to mention the name of our big-hearted and genial German friend, Fred Weymueller, who also assisted in making the burden as light as possible for us. I shall never forget their kindness and hope to be able to return the compliment to them.
We have not as yet got to canvass at Murray City or Blatchford, but hope to in a few days.
Owing to the dullness of times, etc., we feel somewhat discouraged, but will not give up until compelled to. Most all miners want the paper, but do not feel able to subscribe just now, probably later on we may do better. Every miner should read the Journal. It is cheaper than the penny dailies and more to our interest. So miners everywhere, even if you do not like the paper, just consider the fact that you are patronizing an enterprise of your own. Make it what it should be by your patronage, the best trades paper published. You can do it. Now, will you?
Wishing success to all, we will not worry you longer.
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, June 23, 1898.
60. R. L. DAVIS
Of Rendville Makes a Plea for Proper Treatment For the Negro and Says That Like the Mining Machine He is Here to Stay
Rendville, O., Oct. 10.—After a long silence, not for the reason that I esteem the organization less, but because of other things that have occurred, I felt that it was as well for me to remain silent and let matters drift along as they might. I have been a constant watcher as to the welfare of the U.M.W. of A. and noticing the troubles now existing in the Sucker State among our craftsmen, prompts me to say a word at least. I am indeed sorry to see the State of affairs as exists there, and yet it teaches us that one lesson seemingly so hard to learn by a great many of us, viz., to organize. I do not mean to organize against the black man, as they are now doing, for that will do no good nor will there any good results accrue from it, and fight it as you may the result will be the same. I have watched it in the past and have never known it to fail. I would advise that we organize against corporate greed, organize against the fellow who, through trickery and corrupt legislation, seeks to live and grow fat from the sweat and blood of his fellow man. It is these human parasites that we should strive to exterminate, not by blood or bullets, but by the ballot, and try as you may it is the only way. You can’t do it by trying to exterminate the negro or big black buck niggers, as they were referred to a few weeks ago through the columns of The Journal. I assure anyone that I have more respect for a scab that I have for the person who refers to the negro in such a way, and God knows than a scab I utterly despise. The negro North has no excuse, or very few excuses, for scabbing, but the negro South has lots of them, and while I give the North a great deal of credit, I fear that I make a mistake, for in many places even in the North, no matter how good a union man he may be, he cannot get work only as a blackleg. And in the South he can work almost anywhere provided he is willing to be the other fellow’s dog, and I don’t mean the employer alone, but the white laborer as well. Now, the negro, like the mining machine, is here to stay and you may as well make up your minds to treat them right. I dare say that you seldom or never hear of negroes being brought into a locality to break a strike in which both white and black worked together, and even if they were you always found the negro on the side of right. Hence, I say treat the negro right and he will treat you right. I earnestly hope to see the miners of Illinois win their battle, for I suppose they are like miners elsewhere. Their pittance is already too small. A word as to West Virginia. I hope that some day they may see the error of their ways and come within the folds of the organization. I would like to say a word in reference to the boycott, but this is already too lengthy. Will say something about it in my next if this escapes the waste basket. Yours for justice,62
R. L. DAVIS
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 13, 1898.
The delegates to the eleventh annual convention received the sad intelligence that former Board Member R. L. Davis had suddenly died at his home in Rendville, Ohio, as announced in the meeting Wednesday, as follows:
Rendville, Ohio, Jan. 17, 1900
W. C. Pearce, Indianapolis, Ind.:
R. L. Davis died January 16th, 1900, of lung fever. G. G. WEAVLR.
R. L. Davis was born in Roanoke, Va., Dec. 24, 1863. According to the usual custom of colored people of that age and clime he began work at eight in a tobacco factory, working there and attending school during the winter months until he was 17 years old. At the age of 17, he became disgusted with the very low wage rate and other unfavorable conditions of a Southern tobacco factory and, leaving there, he settled in the mining regions of West Virginia, and became a miner. He worked in the mines of the Kanawha and New River fields of West Virginia until 1882, when he moved to Rendville, Ohio, where he has since resided.
He was always a staunch union man and by reason of his activity in this direction and the evidences of his latent ability he was elected a member of the Executive Board of District 6 (Ohio) in 1890, and re-elected each year until 1895. At the National convention of the U.M.W. of A., held in Columbus, Ohio, in April 1896, he was elected a member of the National Executive Board, and re-elected again the year following.
“Dick,” as he was always familiarly called, was an earnest intelligent worker, and a representative man of his race. His able assistance and timely counsel will be missed by those with whom he associated and the United Mine Workers have lost a staunch supporter by his death.
We extend sympathy to the bereaved wife and orphaned children, and trust that they will receive the assistance and support merited by the husband and father now deceased.
The following resolution was passed by the convention:
“Indianapolis, Ind., Jan. 17, 1900.
“Whereas, We have learned with regret of the death of former Executive Board Member, R. L. Davis, of the United Mine Workers of America: and
“Whereas, Many years of his life were devoted to advancing the interests of his craft: and
“Whereas, In the death of Brother Davis our organization has lost a staunch advocate of the rights of those who toil, and his race a loyal friend and advocate: therefore, be it
“Resolved, That the United Mine Workers of America, in convention assembled, barely expresses their deep sense of regret and extend to the bereaved family their heartfelt sympathy in this their hour of trial; be it further
“Resolved, That this resolution be spread upon the minutes of the convention and a copy forwarded to his relatives at Rendville, Ohio.
C. W. CAIN,
J. L. CLEMO,
W. D. RYAN, Committee.”
United Mine Workers’ Journal, January 25, 1900.
62. SERIOUS MISTAKE
Secretary Riley Complains of Treatment of Colored Miners
Jellico, Tenn., Feb. 27, 1892.
I thought I would write these few lines to let the many readers of your valuable paper see and know the way the colored miners are treated in this part of the country.
Before I left here to go to the Columbus convention I was called to New comb, Tenn., to see after some trouble there. When I got to Newcomb I found that a colored checkweighman had been elected and the white miners at that mine declared that no negro should weigh their coal. They made several excuses, such as that the man was not competent, the next excuse was that he kicked against the former checkweighman, the third was that he was not legally elected. After hearing their excuses I offered to take the colored man off that had been elected, if they would agree to support a colored man that was competent and had not kicked against the former checkweighman. Then the Master Workman of that place told me in plain words that the body of white miners had agreed to not support a colored man. After he openly told [of] the determination of the whites, the colored miners said that the white miners had promised to divide the checkweighman1s office with them, the whites had promised if there was one half colored they should have the place half of the time, if there was one third they should have it one third of the time, etc., but instead of standing to their promise the whites have filled the office for more than five years, and yet they declare that the negro shall not weigh their coal. At Altamont, Laurel Co., Ky., the company put a colored man in the mine acting as assistant bank boss and the whites declare that they won’t work under any negro and the drivers won’t pull the coal that is dug under a negro boss. And now I would like to know how under heaven do the white miners expect for the colored people to ever feel free and welcome in the order of Knights of Labor or United Mine Workers of America, when their so-called brothers don’t want them to get not one step higher than the pick and shovel. And yet, whenever there is anything in the way of trouble expected, or when anything is wanting in the way of finance these very same men will come up to the colored man and say, “Brother J. we must all stick together, for we are all miners, and your interest is mine and mine is yours; we must band together.” This talk you see reminds one of the story of the spider and the fly, the majority of the white miners only need a colored brother in time of trouble.63
And how can you ever expect the colored people of the South to become an organized body as long as such work is carried on, which is an open violation of the laws of the order. And yet this matter is given little or no attention. When this subject was brought up by me in the convention at Columbus, that the officers should see that this color line law was fully carried out, that any place or places that made any difference in persons because of their color, and that their character should be taken away from them, they tabled the question and left it so. Now, I think something should be done about this matter. The colored people need to be organized in the South. But how can this be done by the people whom they regard as their enemies? I cannot tell. I hope some steps will be taken at once to right these matters.
Wm. R. Riley,
Sec.-Treas., Dist. 19.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 3, 1892.
The Worse Enemies Are Among Our Own Race
Jellico, Tenn., August 13, 1892.
With your permission I want to talk a little with the boys in a rambling way. In the first place, I want to let your readers know that the miners of Jellico region are buying flour, beef steak and chicken, and the merchants of Jellico were saying this evening that they had not seen so many $20 bills in Jellico for years as were handled by the miners of certain mines. What I mean by all this is, work is good, and there is no more eating dry bread at some of our houses for a little while, and while our work is good our men are not wasting any time with picks and shovels, and no race prejudices are heard of now as there was last winter. Of course I don’t mean to say by that that we have all good men here, for this is not the case, but the good men have got the majority on their side and they make the minority follow in line.
And now a few words to Brother R. L. Davis. In speaking about the men at No. 3 mine, Brother Davis seems to be a little behind the times. Did you not know that the worst enemies we have to contend with are among our own race? Did you not know that they will seek more undue advantages over you than anyone else? What? A nigger? He is the worst animal living against his race, and when I say nigger I mean nigger and not colored people. Now, let me say, that they have surely made a man of me, I used to try to fight it out with them and I soon found out that my money would not last at that foolishness because they would take a good beating just to get a chance to have me arrested to swear against me and loud swearing some of them would do; they came near swearing me baldheaded before I learned any sense. But now, I can laugh at their folly when they try to make war against me and say all colored and white men will consider the source it came from. And again; I think a man that this class of men don’t talk about are not worthy of an office in the labor ranks. I am by this class like I am by my church people. When I go to a place to preach and this class of people run to me, talking about some old sister or brother over yonder, the first thing pops into my mind is, “Over yonder is the light of Christianity in this place, and here sets the hounds of h— howling on their tracks, barking at their good name, barking at their future prosperity and barking at their religious examples that they set before them from time to time.” But when I hear of some good sister or brother that everybody likes and praises, an old Scripture passage presents itself to me: “Woe unto the person whom the world speaks well of.” Now, I do love to hear of officers of our organization being spoken hard of, and I do like to hear of them having a hard time. It will make them read the laws more carefully and fill them out to the letter. It causes the man to try to pose himself to meet any emergency that may cross his path; and, let me say, do away with the man that everybody is well pleased with. So Brother D., continue to press forward, make all the colored and white friends that you possibly can, and don’t worry over the niggers and dogs. “Brother Willing Hand,” you must not speak a word of praise about me, I am not used to my race praising me, it might give the brain fever for ever.64
William R. Riley.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 25, 1892.
64. RILEY INDIGNANT
He Scores His Race—The Negro His Own Enemy
Jellico, Tenn., Sept. 5, 1892.
You must really excuse my delay in sending in my report of our convention which convened on August 17, 18, and 19 last, for we have been so busy over the Coal Creek trouble that everything else has been neglected. However, our convention was very largely attended with delegates from all over the district and business was carried on very smoothly until the election of officers commenced, when Brother W. C. Webb was placed before the convention for re-election for the office of president. He positively refused to allow his name to come up before the convention, then it was that our convention came to a standstill for nearly a day, trying to persuade Brother Webb to accept of the position as president again, but he would not accept. After trying for a day to get Brother Webb to accept the office, then Brothers G. H. Simmons, J. W. Cox and S. P. Herron were placed before the convention for president. S. P. Herron was elected president. A. Vaughn of Coal Creek was elected vice president, but owing to the misconduct of A.V. the office was declared vacant before the convention adjourned and Brother John R. Rhodes of Coal Creek was elected vice-president in A. Vaughn’s place. Our next officer to be elected was secretary-treasurer. Brothers Mullan, William Rhodes and myself were placed before the convention and there were only four votes cast in the convention that I did not get on the first ballot, after which a motion to make my election unanimous was offered, which resulted in three of my four opponents who voted for. Now I need not tell the readers that one vote that I did not get was not a white vote, because any white man would have been too intelligent to not vote with the whole convention. But this was a so-called colored man belonging to an assembly that all of the white men had drawn out of, so his colored brother told, and the white men say the reason they did draw out was because the mine workers of that labor assembly had not paid one cent of dues for twelve months and the other leading officers, who are colored men, are holding from two to four rooms in the mines working three to six men, double-shifting their places, driving the night mule themselves for extra cars, depriving a driver of the work where he could make his $1.75 per day, and the white men say that they would not live in an assembly where their brothers carried on such work.65
Now, what I want the colored people to know, is simply this, that the negro is the worse enemy to one another that they have on top of dirt; there is a class of them that are so begrudging and jealous of their own race that they will do anything regardless of principle or anything else to keep one another rising one step above them. And this very class does more kicking about the white man not letting them have a show than a Kentucky mule; and I want to ask my people, how under heavens can you ever expect the white man to place any confidence in them when they don’t have any in one another. If whites say that the negro is not worthy of any office or don’t deserve any, are they not paying you off with your own money? Have you not set this example for them to go by? Have you not said by your own ways and actions that your own race is not entitled to anything? I think you do. Now, let me say to the colored people who are trying to be men second to no man, continue to battle on for the right, seek wisdom and be wise, act honest men and by so doing both white and colored men will love to respect you, and God himself will bless you and our children, which are very apt to be the second edition of their parents, will come on after you and take up your work where you left off and push it on. Yes, my people, wake up and ask yourselves these questions: How am I to live in ignorance? How long am I to be a pull-back to my race? How long am I to be a stumbling block for the cause of labor, justice and humanity? Say as the prodigal did: I will rise and join the labor union and rally for its rights, defend its cause and be known among my own craftsmen as a man among men.66
Hoping that the readers will excuse this rambling letter and with best wishes to the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL, I am yours fraternally,
Wm. R. Riley,
Sec’y Treas. Dis. 19, U.M.W. of A.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 8, 1892.
Similar in Sound But Different In Action
Jellico, Tenn., Sept. 26, 1892.
Again Brother Editor, I shall trouble you for a little space in your valuable columns. Times are still very lively in Jellico region, plenty of work every day and everywhere. I visited two picnics this month, given by Local Assembly 1855, Grays, Ky., and Local Assembly 1129, Red Ash, Ky., They had quite a good time at each place, financially and peacefully. Brother S. P. Herron was with me at both places; he seems to enjoy the picnics splendidly, and wished that picnics would last forever so he could look at the pretty mountain girls.
The Coal Creek trouble has been quite a set back to our district. We spent all of last year getting the lower part of the district into the union, and after we had accomplished our work there here comes this trouble and we lose the greater part of our year’s work. Our only hope is that the national will help us a little this fall in our field work so as to put us on the fence again.
We have great confidence in our new president and believe with the proper backing he will lead us on to victory. Our executive board is also a cool, level-headed set, whom everyone believes will be an honor to the district.
Now just a few words to Brother “Willing Hands.” My brother, you seem to think that I was wrathy at the negroes. Now, I do think that I made a clear distinction in spelling these two words. I never wrote any harm about the negro at all, for I have no fight to make against them. But I wrote, and will continue to write, against the niggers and dogs. We have tried petting, coaxing and soft words with these curs for years, and we have gained nothing from them only hard times. They say that we are only trying to make a living without working, call us d---- sell outs, money seekers, etc. I believe in the saying of St. Paul, “When the child is young feed it on the sincere milk of the breast, but when it gets old feed it on strong meat.” Now, we did believe years ago that these curs were young in the labor movement, therefore we were very tender and mild with them, but now we think it is time for them to be grown men, and should be fed on strong meat. We can see that it is nothing but pure niggerish, doggish principle that is in these curs, and soft talk will do no good. My brother, I live in the South among these people and know whereof I speak. Of course there are some as good people in the South as there is the world, and again there are some of the worst curs that ever lived, and Webb Riley, nor no one else can change them. With all due respect to Brother “Willing Hands” and success to the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL, I am fraternally yours,67
Wm. R. Riley
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 29, 1892.
66. RILEY’S REPORT
Of Organizing Tour In Tennessee—Colored Men Try Again
Pioneer, Tenn., March 17, 1893.
As the evening is so bad and the boys have not got out from work I must beg for a little space in your paper to let the boys know what the pair of Bills are doing in District 19.68
Well, Billy Webb and myself started out over the district on the 8th of March, to see if one pair of Bills could win. In our meetings in the Jellico region we left everything wherever we met. We struck the C.S.R.R. on Saturday morning at Junction City, and went to Barren Fork where we had a very good meeting and the whole house voted to a man to do all they could to support the order. This was encouraging. I parted from Billy at Hellenwood and I came to Coal Creek, Tenn., and I went up to Briceville, where I met up with the district vice president, standing in a small crowd, but that worthy officer never let on that he saw me. After waiting for him to show up as though he knew me, and then seeing that he was not going to do so, I called him aside and asked him if he thought we could get the men together for a meeting. He said no; he thought not, as the Odd Fellows met that night, but said that if I could get the men on the Creek together, it would be no trouble to get the men at Briceville to organize. He further said that his assembly had a committee [which] were out looking after the colored people up there, and if they could not succeed in organizing them, that they would send for me. With this kind treatment from one of our officers, I left Coal Creek. After working there three days I succeeded in reorganizing the colored people of that place, which I think will make a noble order. As these colored men have always shown by their ways and actions they wanted to be organized men, but are treated so bad by their so-called white brothers that they don’t feel like they are recognized in the order as knights. They are willing to try the order again, thinking that the white men of Coal Creek will yet recognize the importance of treating them as brother miners.69
And now I do hope that Brother J. J. Jones, vice president of District 19, will go to work and make his words true by organizing Briceville.
A few words to the many who are discussing the paper question. Boys, the UNITED MINE WORKERS JOURNAL is good enough for me now as it is, but if you can better it I will still read it, but for God’s sake don’t make it any smaller.70
With best wishes to our paper and its readers,
I am fraternally yours,
Wm. R. Riley
United Mine Workers’ Journal, March 30, 1893.
67. RILEY AGAIN
Writes About How Things Are in the South
All Good Men Will Stay Away From North Jellico
JELLICO, Tenn., May 8.—According to promise, I’ll come again. I was called to North Jellico last Monday. When I arrived at the depot I found several of the old stand-bys there waiting. Well, they took me up to the company’s office and showed me the one-sided contract, signed by the general manager and superintendent. Not a miner’s dirty paw was allowed on this noble piece of North Jellico clean legal cap paper. Among other things it claims the words: A checkweighman will be recognized, but he must be approved of by the company, or, in other words, he must be a man to suit the company, whose wages shall be $2.25 per day; no more, no less.
Now I want the reader to read that clause carefully and think for a moment and tell me what you think of such men who could have such immense cheek as to post up such an article in this country. They must pick the check-weighman; they must say what his salary shall be, and it shall be $2.25. When the committee told the general manager that some of the officials of the district were there and they would like to meet him; his reply was that he positively would not make any contract with no labor organization; that he had posted up the contract and that was all that he would do. He said that he would not change nor differ from the article posted up under any circumstances. When asked if he thought the contract would stand without both parties being properly represented, his reply was: “I’ll risk it.” The contract that he has posted up changes the prices on the machine men and cuts the present prices 3 cents on the ton, so I am informed by the miners there. This gentleman (Mr. C. S. Neill) won’t meet in convention with the operators of Jellico region nor the Laurel region. He says that the Jellico operation throw off on him and the Laurel prices don’t suit his place. So you can readily see that he don’t aim to treat his men fair at all.
I will close by asking all good men to stay away from North Jellico until things are settled, as the men are out waiting for a contract.
WM. R. RILEY
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 11, 1893.
68. REV. WILLIAM RILEY
Ex-Secretary of District 19 Gives an Account of Some Things in the South
Jellico, Tenn. [n.d.]
I thought, as there has been no news in your valuable columns from District 19 for quite awhile, I would venture to write a few lines. Work is very good and has been reasonably good ever since the suspension, and the boys seem to be saving their little mites some better than usual. I moved down to my little farm place, near Oswego, Tenn., last month for the purpose of going into the gardening business this spring. Here I found more colored miners than there is anywhere in this region. At one place, really about two-thirds of the miners are colored.71
I began to talk labor to the boys, as none of them belong to the order, and some of the white miners that used to be strong labor men, or rather acted so years ago, are here, and I proposed to them that we would go to work and organize the camp, as I knew that I could do so, as the leading men here were my intimate friends and stood together in other places. The result of my efforts was this: These so-called white brothers went around to all of the weakest of the colored men and told them that Riley had left all of his property in Jellico and moved to Oswego to be checkweighman, and wanted them organized in order that the district would not go down, etc., etc., etc.
Now I want to give the whole cause of this talk. In the first place these men belong to that class of white people that I always styled as dogs; in the second place they tried to keep all the negroes away from here, but after the Indian Mountain strike in 1893 the colored people got a good footing here. These dogs kept up part of their bluff by saying that no negro should weigh coal here, like they have said at most every other place in the district by either words or actions.72
Now then, the black boys of course were not afraid to weigh, but just did not have the time, and when I came here they knew, first, that Riley has always been known in this country to be one of those fellows that is too lazy to run (without a leader) and plenty of time for anything that I wanted to do; and as they cared nothing for the organization, they took this step to kill the whole thing to gain one little point, viz., checkweighraan. So you see what kind of cattle we have through here. Secondly, there is another who would be in the order but they don’t want to be sitting in the lodge room with negroes; they want the negroes’ money; they want his support in time of trouble, but as for offices they don’t want Mr. Negro to have not one.
The negroes in the South are opening their eyes on this as well as other things. They want more recognition. And if the Southern negroes are ever thoroughly organized or anything like it, it must be done by men of their own race. Can you blame them, when their white brother, so-called, will come out of the lodge room with him at 10 p.m., and if, while on his way home he meets a drunken white man and the white man wants the negro to run and the negro is too lazy to run, and won’t take a whipping, this drunken white man can just go to some of his brothers and tell his tale, and they will all have their Winchesters and be ready to kill the brother negro before day. Such is the case here in the South and no mistake. As you shall hear from me soon on the standing of our district in general, I will close, wishing you success, I am yours for the cause of labor.
Wm. R. Riley
United Mine Workers’ Journal, February 7, 1895.
OTHER BLACK COAL MINERS
69. COLORED MINE
The Colored Mining Company of Carthage, Missouri is the only mining company owned by colored men in this country.
The Freeman (Indianapolis), March 21, 1891.
70. OUR COLORED SISTER
She Gives the Indiana Miners a Practical Tip and Says Some Sensible Things
DUGGER, Ind., June 30, 1891.
Well, Mr. Editor, I hab see some copys ob de JOURNAL and in dem I fine leters from lots ob plases teling all about how de minin business am gitin along, and I fine de invitation to ebry body to gib you information but de po niger. Now, Mr. Editor, I take de privilege to scratch a few lines dat de peple may here from dis neck ob de woods. I will jis say I hab ben acquainted wid de mines for many years an hab my eys an ears open most ob de time and I must say de business am gitin wors ebry year and it makes my ole hed whis round to see how times are gitin. De mony am just as plenty an mo so dan befo war, and dere am mo demand for de products ob de kentry dan eber befo. De rich am gitin richer, and de pore am gitin porer. I think sometimes de worl is comin to an en. De bible sais sumthin bout de las days. Der mus be purty times abot de mines in dis part. Dere am not much cole digin goin on hear now since de first ob May, de opraters fixin traps to catch de miners and de miners cusin de Zecgative Bode on de fence fund and finin falts wid ebery body. Now, de bible sais to get de beme outen your owne eye and den yer can see to get to mote in you brudders eye.
It makes my hart ake wid sadnes to see de count ob some ob my people bein shipped to de Norfwest to take de place ob good ones men fitin for dere rites. Some ob dese men gone up dere node where dey was gwine, but mos ob dem was ignant about de strike. Now, Mr. Editor, I fine dis am do fault of truble ebrywhere—not noin de facts—and I don see how tis going to get any better while de trash is coming from ebry country wid dere ignance, and de parents ob de boys an gals keeps dem home from skule wha da mite learn somethin. One thing I hab learned wif my eys open is dat de edjicated hab de money and de fine buggy and de pi and de cake, while de ignant hab de check on de compny store for one dollar wif minety cents ob dat punched out de day befo. Now, Mr. Editor, I here so much about dat man Penny. Dey saydown hear he kin jes make a coal operator think he is made outen green chese and dat he is bout to be shipped to dat land where de folks lib on cheese and kraut, and dey gib right up and sine a contract dat is about rite. I wish dat Penny would come down dis way and turn himsef into dollars and hab de same feet. But Mr. Editor, whil we hab de pennies to tos and de kany to watk wid and de rays to gil us lite we nede more good stron onions dat will bring the tears ob repentance to de eys ob some ob de rank an file. You can go no plase but yo har de organization bein cused for de faluer on de fust ob May.
Har is de pint dat gages me all de time why dese bery men dat cus de organization if dey git in trouble wid de bos dey run to de union and get dem ter strike to gane der pint and sum ob dem on metin nite wont go to de metin, but gow around to de pluck-me and talk to de stoer clerks and try to git a sof snap jus because dey git der poak and beans fer de skimp stoer. Maby I hav scratched to much already, especialy fo on ob my collah, but I see you gin Mis McNab and dat oder woman rume ter say thar little pece. Since I begin ter rite this lettah my mine has gon back ober de days whan de gals an boys useto mete in de ebman an hab a good time de dul care ob de day was lade down wid de shuvel and de ho. But in dese days massey feched de gemn to de cabin dore, den he pade docto and de bucher an get us rags ter kepe us from frezin in wintah, but since de age ob progres hab set in times am changin at de end ob de peg. Ebery dollah hab ben progresin to de opraters so fas dat an ole woman like me doan git aroun in time to see em gow into de company safe, an once dey git in dere its all day.
Wid a warnin to all, I close dis artical an urg all to wach de sines ob de times an neber make a mov when de sines is rong. Now sum foks plant dere taters in de new moon. Dere is danger in dat. Sum sindicate mite have a corner on taters up dere. Now you hear foks say when to shear sheep. De best time is when de woll is on dere back. Sum nigers say posum is de bes in de wintah, but dey am mity nice any time. But dey are de bes after yo hab dem coched, skined and rosted.
Take de hint up dere, yo Ingiana boys. De woll will be bes on his back about de fust ob September. O, neber mine de fros, but pray fo his meditation. Mo in de futur ib dis am published.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 2, 1891.
71. COLOR QUESTION
Looked at From Another Point of View
When Uncle Sam Was Small—The Negro in Little Rhody
A Question of Consanguinity Propounded by Our Correspondent
JELLICO, TENN. April 28.
I have noticed for quite awhile that the columns of your most valuable paper have been open for the discussion of the so-called “race problem,” which has been very ably handled by several writers, and as I have certain views in regard to the matter that no one has yet expressed I thought I would pen a few lines on the subject.
To begin with I will say that when Uncle Sam was a very small boy and did not know as much as he does at present, he allowed the “negro” to be brought into his domain, not as other nationalities came, free, but in shackles, and if I make no mistake, the State called “Little Rhody” was the73 first place to receive the strangers; not with open arms, but unlocked fetters, which were soon securely fastened upon the limbs of this man who happened to resemble Ham a little more than he did Japheth. Well, now he is here, what next? He was worked and used to the best advantage by the people (white I mean) of the Middle and New England States, who were at that time, as well as the present, chiefly engaged in manufacturing. Now this is where the first trouble arose with the colored man. Some came directly from their native land and others only separated from it by one generation. They could hardly be learned the mysteries of the arts their owners followed, and instead of becoming a prolific source of wealth as was expected, they became unprofitable. Now, the promoters of this nefarious business, called slave trading, had too good an eye to business to send them back, so they looked around for a place to dump them and their eyes beheld the South. Yes, that’s the place! This warm sunny clime will just suit these slaves, and straightway they proceeded to dispose of their human property to the Southern planters who saw an opportunity by making this deal, that they, instead of working as they had previously done, could sit down and have others do their work for them, and with the same cunning and shylock-like sagacity that has been co-existent in all ages with plutocracy they purchased.
Well, what next? They worked them in the cotton and cane for years, built up an aristocracy in the South with their labor, condemned them to ignorance until the same “North” as it is termed, got jealous, (which was caused by the Almighty, I think) and became very considerate of the condition of the slave and said that they must be set free.
Now, let us see what was the cause of this. As we have stated before, the North had its manufacturing establishments and the South grew the cotton. The Southern planter controlled the labor of the black man and the planter could charge whatever price he pleased for his product and, as the Northern manufacturer was at the mercy of the South, he became mad and jealous and said to himself: “If these black men were free we could control their product and these Southern gentlemen would have to come down a notch.” And so the North became very philanthropic and set to work and secured the colored man a nominal freedom.
So after centuries of primeval existence and years of chattel slavery, we find him turned loose in 1865 without a dollar; ignorant, credulous, yet full of gratitude, an easy prey to the cupidity and avarice of a far worse set of Shylocks than the ones the Nazarene carpenter drove out of the temple at Jerusalem.
Now as I proceed I will make this statement, that there is no color line at all, but simply the slave line; and, to sustain my assertion, I will say that I have known men and women of other nationalities who were nearly as black, a great deal more ignorant, and four-fold more degraded than the very meanest “nigger” I ever saw, yet they never had that infernal curse of slavery upon them, and they were received by some of the kickers against the black man with open arms as their social equals. “Oh, consistency thou art a jewel.” Now, the fallacy of such things is really sickening to a person of any thought, no matter whether he be black or white.
Just to illustrate the matter I will suppose that a citizen (white or colored) of the United States should go to Africa and happen to be nabbed as was the colored man and become a slave for years and should then escape and get back to his native heath, would he be received as one below the general order of humanity or as a hero? A hero by all means. Well, why is not the colored man as much a hero who escaped the tyranny of slavery in this country? Now I will make another assertion, viz., that some of the smartest men we have in this country are men whose skins are black, whether so by nature or by climatic influences for centuries I will not discuss, but I say that a few days ago I heard a colored man illustrate the cause of his condition in a manner that for simplicity of understanding and correctness of detail was ahead of any definition of the cause I ever heard. He said: “I was a bound slave, my master controlled me and my wages, he was a smart man and they could not fool him. Now I am a free slave, I am ignorant and at the mercy of the rich man and cannot help myself; they made me so on purpose to rob me.” But, he said, “through organization I know I can better my condition,” although, he continued, “no man can be a true Knight of Labor man and be either a Democrat or Republican. Now I would like to know which is the best and smartest man, this poor old slave or the white gentleman who on election day will carry around a body full of whisky and hurrah for some low-down drunken ward politician? If I was not afraid of getting on dangerous ground I would say that in a great many places the worst line that is drawn is the political line. When men who are white do not like to sit in the same assembly with the colored man, yet are glad to welcome him into the political club room just before election day and pat him on the back and call him a good fellow and then after the election; my Lord! why they just can’t stand a nigger. Another thing let me tell you, but I want you to remember not to say anything about it, the party that is in the majority or minority is the one that is most likely to do this. The K. of L. declares that it abolishes races, creeds and colors and the man who can’t stand that kind of doctrine, let him just get up and git. Now, I will say in conclusion that I would like for some one to tell me the difference between a negro who has seven-eighths of white blood in him and a white man with one-eighth of negro blood? “Tis place not blood that makes the man,” and if we could have a few transpositions of souls or at least the cultivated brain of James G. Blaine placed in the being of a colored man who had been blacklegging and vice versa, what would be the consequences? Why you would have a colored man with capabilities to be secretary of state and a white man who would blackleg. So I can say let politics go to thunder, stick to the principles of the K. of L., do all we can for one another, irrespective of race, creed or color. If we do this when we come to the jumping off place we will most likely go to a country where in reality there is no color line, if they do think there is one here.74
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 5, 1892.
72. COAL MINERS’ BAND—EXCURSION
Blocton, Ala., Special.
This is a small town in the Cahoba Coal Fields, with a population of about three thousand. Out of this number there are about eight hundred Afro-Americans, all engaged in mining coal for the Cahoba Coal Mining Co. We have a silver Cornet Band of which all the members are coal miners. The band ran an excursion from here to Chattanooga, Tenn., July 29th, over the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia R’y., and it was the most enjoyable affair of the season. Jack Robinson is running a first-class barber shop and Mrs. Robinson is feeding the hungry with all kinds of meals and vegetables. Meals served to order and at all hours. R. H. Taylor is ready to transfer a trunk or any other article with his horse and wagon.75
The Freeman (Indianapolis), August 20, 1892.
73. FREE DEBATE
The Race Problem
RENDVILLE, O., Nov. 4.—As I have been an instrument in placing the United Mine Workers’ Journal in the hands of several of my race who have never read a labor paper before, I feel it my duty to write a few lines on a subject that is much talked of every day in this part of the state. That subject is, prejudice on account of color. Mr. Editor, prejudice on account of color is not a natural sentiment. There is a natural prejudice among the civilized nations to certain conditions in life incident to a state of barbarism; there is a natural prejudice to those who are given to immorality and the laws of nature; there is a natural prejudice to those who commit murder and arson; to those who lie and steal; but there is not a natural prejudice to a man simply because he is black, brown or yellow. The influence of a man’s complexion is not greater than that of his moral and intellectual culture. Virtue is the highest influence that moves the heart of man, and though it may be clothed in ebony or Parian marble it will command love, honor, obedience and respect in every quarter of the civilized world. Prejudice to an individual of the Negro race can thus be easily removed, but the removal of the prejudice attached to the entire race incident to a state of slavery is a labor of centuries. The problem thereby becomes one for every individual to solve for himself, and thus solving it for himself, he solves it for his race. National progress is the same as individual progress.
There are some writers notably Hamilton Smith, Nott and Gliddon, who deprecate the amalgamation of the races from a pathological point of view, claiming that it tends to lower the vitality and intellectual vigor of the offspring. The assertion has been denied by equally as illustrious writers and will hardly be subscribed to by any Negro American who has made a careful observation of the subject.76
There should be no desire to keep up race distinction in this country or in the organization of labor when all have a common interest in it. No benefit can come to the Afro-American by withholding himself apart from white people, a distinctive negro community, a distinctive negro civilization, and social orders, such as churches, beneficial associations, schools, colleges and business enterprises. These are not only not desirable, but indeed are reprehensible, for they create class distinction and foster the race prejudice of which we desire to free ourselves.
This principle is recognized by all other people emigrating to this country. The Frenchman with his high sense of pride soon loses his identity and is absorbed in American homogenity; likewise the German, the Irishman and the Italian; even the Jew, with all his religious instincts, is relaxing his hitherto inflexible exclusiveness and embracing the Americanisms. The Anglo-Saxon civilization, notwithstanding the one black spot on its escutcheon, which has impressed itself upon the heart of the negro as a hot burning brand, must, by its grandeur and its majesty, command our highest admiration. We desire to live, act and move with such a civilization and to say to its people, as Ruth said unto Naomi, “entreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if aught, but death part thee and me.”
Success to the UNITED MINE WORKERS’ JOURNAL.
W. E. CLARK
United Mine Workers’ Journal, November 9, 1893.
74. PRATT CITY, ALABAMA
And Vicinity—News Reported By Correspondent Hannigan—Shameless White Scabs
PRATT CITY, Ala., May 28.—Our brothers of the North are aware of the fact that we, the miners of Alabama, came on strike one week prior to them, not because we were or wanted to be affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America, but because we were forced to it by trickery on the part of our employers and some of our fellowmen to help them through with their damnable schemes to put us, black and white, below the level of the slaves of former days.
I want to be honest and above board, irrespective of consequences; when I speak the truth I fear no man. Our employers could not accomplish one-half what they do if it were not that some low down, mean scoundrels in our midst helped them through. One of the worst cases we had to contend with in this state is the contract system. When the operators could not realize enough profit to satisfy their selfish greed they would hunt up some weak-kneed fellow to be their tool, and sorry to say it such are too often to be found among men who, to external appearances, are noble, but internally are rotten. One of this class took a contract here very recently, and one who often boasted of his true, honest principles as a union man, is now blacklegging, the only white man of about fifty. We have nothing to fear from the colored man in and around Pratt City; they are true and noble; it is the mean scrubs of white men that are our enemies. All of the colored scabs we have here are taken from other states, and the majority of them never saw a mine until they came here.
Our victory did sometimes seem to hang in the balance, because of the hundreds of convicts we have that fill two of the largest and best mines in this section of the country, and also the many scabs that are coming in every day, but now I think that evil is no longer in the way.
There was a very large meeting of the citizens and miners of this and adjacent counties held at Birmingham on last Saturday. One of the good results of that meeting was a resolution that the local railway men refuse to haul scab coal. They met yesterday evening to deliberate upon this very important question. I have not yet heard their decision, but I am sanguine of favorable results. Then victory is ours.
The men of Blue Creek were forced to vacate company houses a month ago, and now the whole of said houses are filled with scabs. Again the miners of Pratt City and vicinity are notified to do the same. What the outcome will be is hard to determine. We have any amount of guards all over this state, claiming as they do, to protect life and property. It so appears that I and my family are under their protection from the fact that they pass near to my dwelling frequently during the night—very thankful to the gentlemen, I mean, bums. They need not trouble themselves, we can take care of ourselves.
W. S. HANNIGAN
United Mine Workers’ Journal, June 7, 1894.
75. A MINER
Of Alabama Writes Under Deep Aggravation at the Conduct of Blacklegs
PRATT CITY, Ala., June 25.—As I have seen a good many letters from Alabama concerning the present strike, there is one thing I never see mentioned and that is the names of white-faced, black-hearted leading scabs, these things that call themselves men, while and at the same time by their dirty actions one could not tell whether they were suckers, monkeys or long-tailed rats. One of these things is a man, who came from England to Illinois and then here, he has been at Corning, O., also. He is a general leader of scabs and moves his bed, so I am told, every night, not sleeping two nights in the same room. Next comes Bob, Robert or Rob Neil, he is a decent, canny Scotchman from somewhere near Kiliviny in Ayrshire; he was around the Panhandle awhile, he left his own mine and went to help Logan out with the negro blackleg crew, showing them how to shoot down the coal and sometimes chaining and general instructor of the negroes. Next comes George, a Pennsylvania Englishman, he is in the same gang. It’s dangerous blackleg leader. These, with the assistance of John, jr., all led and instructed the imported, unskilled negro until they got enough to make a division when one split at No. 5 taking twenty of these negroes to No. 4, and then they work on till the other takes another division to No. 3 and commences on his own hook as a blackleg boss, leaving L--- and L--- as blackleg partners at No. 5, so that on the whole the company has got a good many blacklegs in the three mines not doing as much as one mine used to do with six times the expense going on; then the other side, known as the drifts, has a blackleg business, but whether it is wholesale or retail I cannot describe. One portion of it is carried on by a man from Pennsylvania and I have not much faith in him anyhow. If he sees a man coming he is like a deer, he rounds a rock in great shape to get out of the way and under cover, saying Lord save me.
Now, can we blame the ignorant negro for working, when men that call themselves white lead them to the very act that is going to ruin not only the present, but the rising generation and for generations to come, and if the devil has as much use for them as the T.C.I. & R.R. Co., well, they never will be in h--- for it’s too full already of such corruption. This strike was inaugurated April 24, and the boys are still living yet, although it is a hard one, but I think they are getting along just as well as the dirty blacksheep are, and then they don’t need to carry 44 pistols around nor have deputies to guard their house. H. F. DeBardeleben has at least from four to six deputies or bums to guard his carcass either by rail, vehicle, asleep or awake, which shows he is guilty of one of the greatest conspiracies against his own color and labor that ever was enacted by any firm. Besides he is plunging the company into thousands of dollars of expense.77
I will now conclude, wishing your valuable paper success and hoping the victory may be ours.
W. J. KELSO78
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 5, 1894.
Blacklegs of the Worst and Meanest Kind Prevent a Settlement—All Tricks Tried—And Thousands of Dollars Spent to Defeat the Miners—Still Firm, However.
PRATT CITY, Ala., July 16.—Since my last writing the situation is unchanged except with regard to a few of the blacksheep who are dropping off, not being able to sustain themselves on the price paid. On Friday there was a negro boy killed at the drifts aged 8 years. The state law of Alabama reads, “that no boy shall be employed in or around the mines under 10 years.” What will they do with this case? I would like to see Mr. Hill-house out here to investigate, but I expect, like the Mary Lee disaster, he will have to see mamma and stay two or three weeks, allowing the company time to fix all things right again. Thank God they cannot break the ranks of the miners this time as they are as solid as the first day they came out. This Debardeleben has tried every conceivable plan, first by bringing imported negroes with the white gulls to lead them and deputies to guard them; second, by throwing the people out of the houses, and thirdly, by offering free transportation to the whites to thin and weaken our ranks; fourth, by hiring a scoundrel to buy the men with beer. By this kind of business Debardeleben has spent thousands of dollars, and all to no purpose. Still the white blacklegs are pulling along showing the “ignorant” negro how to dig coal. Now, I would ask, who is the worst, the negro or the white blackleg? Had it not been for the exertions of these white leaders we would have long ago gained what we were striking for, and that is simply living wages. The T.C.I. company has spent more money now to try and break up this strike than would have paid their miners to cents per ton for the next five years, and the miners ask no more than the old scale of 45 cents per ton, with all coal weighed as usual. Of all the blacklegs I ever saw these men have been the meanest of mean. Neil and Rutledge left their own mines and went to No. 5 as that was the first recruiting depot of Pratt mines; No. 4 next, and No. 3 next. I think that all honest miners should give them the cold shoulder wherever they meet them, as I guess we will have no use for them after all is settled and the company will have just as little. There are none of them but what are mean enough to blackleg the devil if they only thought they could get smiles from the imps. All right, blacklegs, we will see the day when the poor hungry honest man’s child, who is crying for bread today, may smile at a well furnished table, while you are hunting for something to give yours. The protection of armed deputies will not always be with you to guard you in your sleeping and waking hours. A day of reckoning will come, and before you know it. The insults and slurs you have thrown out to these poor miners when you had the governor, the sheriff and the company at your back will surely be remembered against you. Wishing your noble paper success, and hoping I will have better news next time.79
WM. J. KELSO
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 26, 1894.
Of Rendville Writes on Many Things
Affecting the Laboring Man—Politics and Strikes
RENDVILLE, O., Aug. 8—Once more I would ask space in your paper, by request, as I have been asleep so long. Well, I could only say for the craft that we are only living here today. We are crowded up to the last notch and dissatisfaction seems to be the ruling power here now. Well, Mr. Editor, some new ideas have sprung up in the minds of the Northern Pacific Coal company of Roslyn, Wash. They have two agents here after colored men, only they have a contract or agreement for each man to sign before going. I tried to get hold of it, but it was impossible. It is a corker.
I see that the national officers want a change in politics. Well, that is good. When men like McBride are willing to leave their old parties and try others, what ought the colored laborers do?80
Now, Mr. Editor, as a colored man, I may have a different view of this matter, and I know I will find many a one to oppose me in what I want to say on this subject. Since August last there has been a year passed into eternity that the nation will not soon forget. It has told its tale; of its few joys to the many and oppressed of this country, and of its sorrows and bereavement to the same. Monopoly has been against them and the government also in the last few months. My mind has wandered from world to world. My first wonder was, I wonder if the other worlds were inhabited? Did they have the same kind of law and government that we have? and my next wonder was, was this world of ours the hell we read about in the good book? If it is not, how can a man stand the punishment twice and then live through eternity. They burn men alive, skin them, lynch them, shoot them and torture them in a way inconceivable under both administrations. I would ask those of my race who shall read this to study and see if at this late date, do you owe any political party a debt of gratitude? I claim not. The past has taught its lesson, the present is ours, and the future we know not of. Since the year of 1881 there has been over 500,000 immigrants yearly to our country until we are so thick they can’t stand it. The government could afford to have a million or two pushed off the side of the earth and not miss them.
Well, with regard to a new party, could not the colored people of America afford to join a new party if it would pledge itself to them or adopt a plank in the platform for protection of its citizens and see that they are not discriminated against. What will you gain by voting with the same old parties. As long as you do you will make millions of men rich yearly who will not legislate against their own interest. But I want to say, as one, I am in favor of the black man of America forming a party of his own. Some will say that will do no good. What good are you doing now with the old parties? If you do that you will be recognized as citizens, as it has been said, in a body we can elect or defeat.
I know that the colored voters are discriminated against, and can prove it by letters in my possession, from the best so-called Republican In Perry county.
A word to friend Colman: Go slow and learn to trust and keep your powder dry. I am tired of strikes and don’t think much can be done on that line until we come in unity as a class of laboring people; all look one way, think one way, do one way and vote one way; and then I think victory will be ours. I think all men ought to work on this plan for the betterment of all concerned because if you advocate strikes you will have the operators to fight and the bankers, the state officials, the soldiers and a portion of your own craft who toil beside you every day. So, be careful, for restraint and injunction will be in order next locally. I have had a hint, so I will close hoping that much good may be accomplished on the 15th of August at the convention.
W. E. CLARK.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 9, 1894.
78. A LITTLE HISTORY
And a Pathetic Appeal by a Colored Man of Hackett, Pa.
As I have lately subscribed for your paper, and finding it to be very interesting, and more than this, valuable, I desire to occupy a little corner of your space. On the 21st I saw a little piece in your paper which, it would seem, our American people have forgotten. Let me call their minds back to the year 1856, when President Buchanan was inaugurated on March 6. Two days after additional provocation was given to the political opponents of slavery by a judgment of the supreme court in the “Dred Scott” case. It was decided that a negro was not a citizen, and it was held by two-thirds of the judges that the Missouri Compromise was contrary to the constitution. This decree increased agitations; “personal liberty” bills and other proceedings were taken to neutralize the fugitive slave laws in the northern states. Indeed, some of the most sanguinary conflicts took place under Mr. Buchanan’s government.81
So, my friends of labor, will you not dwell on these things. Look at the negro who is not considered a citizen, though he goes to the ballot-box and votes, and pays his taxes. We are not good enough to have a good job if we are capable of fulfilling its duties. Friends, consider how long the old negro has been in this new world; ever since the year 1528 on April 14. We preach union; let us sustain it. Look at the A.R.U. I have been a railroad man though my skin is dark. I cannot get a job if I desired one with other American railroad men. But we will look to the Lord. I thank God that the day is getting brighter. Laborers the darkness is just what we have made.
May the Lord bless the entire world and forgive them for their many sins.
R. A. SCOTT
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 26, 1895.
79. MONTHLY MASS MEETING
Social Democracy Defended—Sensible Remarks by a Colored Minister
WEST PRATT, Feb. 25, 1898.
On Thursday last the miners of West Pratt held their regular monthly meeting. After the usual routine of business had been transacted, Mr. T. Dickey gave a very interesting and instructive talk on the rise, progress and future prospect of Social Democracy and advised the miners to look in that direction for deliverance from the slavish conditions which exist, rather than to the labor organizations that now exist.
J. M. Morton, pastor of the A.M.E. Church, was requested to make a few remarks and made the following enigmatical address:
Fellow Workmen, some preachers say dat we is livin’ in troublous times; dat de time am come when no livin’ man may, and no dead man can, speak de trufe and nuffin but de trufe, ‘less he’s prepared to walk fru de garden of Gesseminy by he self. De bible tells us we must not talk deceitfully or shores you born de good Lord will one day get eben with us an’ some folks naturally buck agin talkin’ dissimultatively.
Methinks I hear some old ignant nigger ask, “What is our tongue good for anyhow?” Why to squirt out ob your mouf day nasty terbacker juice and so on, “But musn’t we walk?” Ob course you can. De good Lord has given us feet an’ legs for locomotion. These to be healthy and useful must be exercised so we can walk, run an’ kick football, an’ should we dread an attack of gout, to prevent dat, we must kick each other. So its just de same wid our tongues. Let us talk but only for tongue exercise.
Ten months ago, President Baxter came out here and told us dat he an’ his ‘sociates wuz in trouble; dat owin’ to de high price which dey was a payin’ us for diggin’ dis coal dat dey couldn’t compete successfully wid de other firms an’ dat unless, we ob our own free will an’ proverbial goodness of the heart, conceded to them a 5 cent a ton reduction, de mines would necessarily hafter shut down indefinitely an’ de grass would grow green on de streets of de Magic City of our loved an’ beautiful southland.
Dat is a specimen of tongue exercise which only de ignant or captious will say is not an admirable one, but to make sure let me ask which one of us all can lay his hand on his heart an’ say, wid conscience void of offense, “President Baxter spake all words of trufe an’ soberness.” Take another specimen. A voice once said, “I couldn’t advise you men to send a representative to examine the books in de office of de T.C.I. & R.R. Co., because dat’s where all de deviltry is done an’ I knows it.” Two months later de same voice said, “the privilege of examining de books is one not to be lightly esteemed,” seeing we have so few—by all means let us hold on to it. Now who of us all can lay his hand on his heart an’ say dat de words means dat de company’s officials an’ our leaders meet once a month to plot agin us, concoct schemes to deprive us of our liberties as our lives instead of its true meaning, dat is, dat dey meet to consider what is best an’ most profitable to all parties so dat peace an’ happiness may abound—tongue exercise.
In conclusion let us just take another example. ‘Spose on leavin’ de company’s office one of our most trusted leaders should feel a gentle tap on he shoulder an’ a sweet gentle voice whisper in he ear, “you is gettin’ old Father William, your hair is a growin’ gray, your knees is becomin’ weak, your hands hang feebly down when you go home. Dear frien’ study your bible for there you shall fin’ written in letters of gold dat’ “He dat fails to pervide for he own household is worser an infidel,” an you must not hastily construe it as meaning necessarily dat de only way one can do dat is by diggin’ coal at 35c a ton.”
Tongue exercise. Now, de logical conclusion of de whole matter am dat if de daily study of de bible am profitable to de plutocrat, it hadn’t orter be unprofitable to de plebian.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, March 5, 1898.
80. COLORED ODD FELLOWS
The colored Odd Fellows paraded around our camp in uniform. They made a splendid showing. They are a very intelligent body, progressive and ardent supporters of unions pertaining to their interests.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, March 5, 1898.
81. A COLORED BROTHER FROM GRAPE CREEK ILLINOIS SENDS AN INTERESTING LETTER
The Rat That Killed the Cat, and Got a “Dead Baby” and Says That Their is No Discrimination Against the Colored Man at That Mine
GRAPE CREEK, Ill., Nov. 3.—Editor Journal: Please permit me space for a few words in your valued paper. I will first introduce myself as a colored miner in the Danville district. There has been a few of us trying to effect a permanent organization in this field for several years, and of course the operators rewarded us by keeping us on the move. But, thanks to James Murray, formerly of Spring Valley, now of Westville, Ill., he came in our district in the year 1897, as it were, by night, and inquired for my old comrade, R. H. Noel, and I. As we were then the only fool negroes in the district, nevertheless we went around and notified a few of the friends, Hungarians and Luthivanians, and held a little meeting. Then they called upon the rat that would volunteer to bill the cat. The trouble was that we had an old charter up in town and who would venture to bring it down? When the operators had then been informed of Brother Murray trying to rent a hall in the town, but of no avail. The operators owned the moon. Then I went up in town, got the box with the charter in it and on being asked what I was carrying my answer was “dead baby.” I carried it in the hot sun to a hall about three miles away, on Grape Creek, and there organized what is known as L. A. 310, with a vast membership and a local treasury of over $1,000 cash now. She was then a dead baby, but if you could once be in one of our meetings and hear us discussing the many questions that concern labor you would think it a ten-year-old boy now.
Now, Mr. Editor, there seems to be a misrepresentation of our union among some people, which I term as enemies to the organization, in saying that the colored men are discriminated against. I don’t know how other districts are, but I term this one fair from the very fact that our district vice-president, Henry Rector, is colored, and very deeply colored. This district is about, I will say, less than one-fourth colored, and not a local in the district that has any colored members is there but has colored local officers. As for myself, I hold more offices than I know what to do with. I have served on one tipple nine months as check weighman without removal and resigned on my own account; was off a little over three months and am now at the same job. Now, does this look like discrimination and only three colored men in the mine out of a total of 300 miners?
I will say we have a few men of the foolish, jealous, bum element that would, if they could, find enough such to back them up, but if such people as that had been in the majority we would have had no union at all. So we follow the old people’s advice, “When you hear nothing say nothing.”
Now I hope that all my colored brothers will take my advice, knowing that they are free men. They should not enslave themselves by making themselves the tools of monopoly, but should rise up and assert our rights as a free people in a free land, demand our rights and if not granted make a stand for them, and don’t stop standing until our demands are granted. God hates a coward, anyway. Think of Patrick Henry the Great, as I term him, when this country was a dense wilderness, when he, having a brave heart within exclaimed, “We will not fight our battles alone. But there is a just God that looks down upon the destinies of all nations and He will raise friends to fight our battles for us.” This country then rose up, threw off the yoke of tyranny and oppression, unloosed the shackles of slavery and became a free and independent people. Now we are the greatest, most industrious, most Christian-like, most free people on earth. But they did not gain it by cowardice, neither did they gain it by listening to the ingenious lie manufactured by their oppressors.82
My dear brother, this must be the policy sooner or later, and let it come, that we may be more able to provide for our families, whom we promise an all-wise God we will love, nourish and cherish. On listening to the other fellow’s pitiful plea we throw ourselves in this channel, “A man that don’t provide for his own household is worse than an infidel.”
S. C. ARMSTRONG
United Mine Workers’ Journal, November 10, 1898.
82. CHASM OF PREJUDICE
Bridged By the Plank of Common Sense in Iowa
A Colored Brother Who is Pained by the Actions of His Race in Other States—An Excellent Letter by O. H. Underwood
MYSTIC, Iowa, July 10.—Editor Journal: As Mystic is one of the largest mining camps in the low coal field, and never seeing anything from Mystic in your paper, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know how the Mystic breezes were blowing in this part of the moral vineyard. We have a very good local here. While it is not in as prosperous a condition as we wish yet, and still the miners here and in fact in the State of Iowa are awakening to the benefit of the organization, while some mistakes have been made, yet they are nothing to compare with the benefits gained.
Appanoose county is proud of one thing and I think we are justified in our pride, and that is, it was the first county in the State of Iowa to unfurl to the breeze the eight-hour concession. I believe it is now nearly general throughout the State. The next greatest need of Iowa is the check-off system,83 and we think we will have that also before another year. I have read considerable in your paper regarding the colored men, but I can proudly say that in the low coal field (and in nearly all of the State) that the chasm of prejudice has been bridged with the plank of common sense, and we are marching side by side, hand in hand, to accomplish the same great object. Visit the different locals with me if you will and all the colored men presidents, secretaries and members of the executive boards and then in my pride at seeing these things would I be disloyal if I should say I believe that the United Mine Workers has done more to erase the word white from the Constitution than the Fourteenth Amendment. And as a colored man, I am speaking from a colored man’s standpoint and can say that the sting is more bitter to us when some of our race go wrong. But as all things cometh to him who waits, we are waiting for the day when they shall see as we see and shall walk in the true light as we do.84
The State convention will be held in Oskaloosa on or about August 16, and we shall offer as candidates for office two of our brainiest and best young men, H. G. Street, of Mystic, and Joe Sharp, of Brazil. Believing, as we do, that they have stood up for the rights of the miners through thick and thin, and they should be written of as one who loves their fellow men, the miners of Iowa will make a mistake if they don’t indorse them and a greater mistake if they do not re-elect John F. Ream as State president. He is a man among men and has done more to keep the organization up than any one man in Iowa.
Wishing success to the mine workers and may West Virginia speedily awake to her true condition, respectfully,
O. H. UNDERWOOD85
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 29, 1899.
83. F. A. BANNISTER
The Colored Orator Makes An Eloquent Plea For Organization86
President Smith, Board Member Stephenson, Organizer Scott and O. T. Wilkins Also Contribute to the Success of the Montgomery Meeting
MONTGOMERY, W. Va., July 26.—Editor Journal: The mass meeting held this date on the ballground was addressed by Messrs. Smith, Scott, Bannister and Wilkins. Brother Farry being very ill could not be present.
President Smith opened the meeting with a short address, stating, among other things, that this meeting was called for the purpose of perfecting the organization and to select delegates to the convention to be held here on the 8th day of August, 1899.
Mr. F. A. Bannister, ex-vice-president, was then introduced and presented in his usual style a forcible argument in behalf of organization. The principal parts are as follows:
“Fellow miners, it is always a pleasure to meet with you on such an occasion as this. I know your pleasure and I know your disappointments, and share them with you.
“You should consider this a day of pleasure. You should consider the questions that come before you, such as the cost of production of coal, cost of living, price of coal in the various markets, etc.
“How will you meet the emergency? How will you meet your employers unless you prepare yourselves for the task?
“I appeal to you to look around you. Take a view of your surroundings. It is no crime for the monopolists to unite. Then why not you as miners and mine laborers unite for self-protection?
“We have a short life. Then we should improve the time. You have the right to go to any other State and find plenty of work at good wages, brought about by organized effort, by your fellow mine workers, while you have been asleep neglecting your duty. Have you got those conditions here? No, and it is because your spleen is not long enough. I can talk plain to you today. One year ago you would say I could talk this way because I was paid $2.50 per day. Today I am here without pay and talk with sincere motives. Some men are afraid to be at this meeting for fear the bosses will see them.
“Ask them if they are afraid to attend a mass meeting. Are they willing to accept a one-fourth cent advance in place of one-half cent, which they are entitled to? Miners, what made the operators offer the one-fourth cent? It was the efforts put forth by the mine-workers to secure what is justly due you. My advice to you is to join the organization and attend the meetings of your local unions, and you will always find your humble servant ready to lift his voice in your behalf.”
United Mine Workers’ Journal, August 3, 1899.
84. TWO BLACK MINERS PRESENT CONTRASTING VIEWS AT THE ILLINOIS STATE U.M.W. CONVENTION, 1900
This grievance was given to me by some of my colored brothers here. There are five shafts in and around Springfield, all supposed to be managed by good union men, and in these shafts no colored men work, simply on account of their color. Because their faces are a little dark they cannot work in these shafts. I claim that when that man (Pointing to the painting of Abraham Lincoln) emancipated the black race he gave them all privileges and equal rights. I think when a colored man pays his money into the union and conducts himself as a good union man should, he is discriminated against when he has to walk two or three miles to his work when there is a shaft at his door. If you do what is right in this matter, gentlemen, you will have none of your Virden and Carterville riots, and no blood will be spilled. If this discrimination is blotted out you will never hear of such riots as we have had in this State. This discrimination means that when the negroes are barred from these shafts and if there is a strike ordered at these places, the operators will say they will get negroes from the South and that they will run the shafts. Gentlemen, we should get closer together; it behooves all to do this; it will stop all friction. When a man takes an oath to make no discrimination against another man on account of race, creed or color he should keep that oath. At the two east shafts, the New North and the Two Citizens, my people are discriminated against. Even the co-operative shift here that is run by labor itself, where all men are supposed to be laboring men who run it, the negroes cannot enter that shaft. We want to abolish all of these evils, and then we shall not have to get out our Gatling guns, we will have no fights along these lines, and we will have no riots. I hope you will help to abolish this thing here and now.87
I cannot find words in the language that will do justice to my expression of thanks to you and to the organization. Up to 1619 the African was happy and contented under the shadow of the palm leaves of his own home. Then he was kidnapped and brought here and sold into slavery and shackles. Then in 1865 we were turned loose, four and one-half millions of us, without a place in which to lay our heads. We were without money, without friends, without education. We took up our lives then without any of these things, without anyone to help us. Today the value of the negro can be seen in all the States from Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico. We have made applications to organizations to help us time and again. You know how even the Masons and Odd Fellows have discriminated against us. There has been no organization that has come to our assistance with such outstretched arms as has the United Mine Workers of America. We are sensitive, it is true. There is a certain class of men in some localities who will not allow the black man to work side by side with his white brothers. No such discrimination is made by the constitution of the organization. There are many places in this State where no color is known when it comes to work. I have seen this organization reach out its arms for my race. They have given them homes and friends; they have helped them when they most needed help. This organization has extended to us more help than we have received from any other organization in America. There are places in this State where colored men have been told that they could not stay at all, where when we were without friends, almost without clothes, where the moment we presented our union cards we were taken in and helped and given work. We knew it was not the United Mine Workers of America who fired the shots that shed our men’s lifeblood at the riots in Virden and Carterville. Those shots were not fired by Mine Workers; the first shots were fired by my own people, they were fired on the non-union men, and it was the non-union who fired upon us. Let us have no break between the white and the black. Your constitution has not made any discrimination against anyone. The organization is strong, and we love it, and we know that it is only individuals who make objection to our working, and we should not get sensitive over this and attack the union. I thank you, gentlemen, for your attention.
Herbert G, Gutiuan, “The Negro and the United Mine Workers of America,” in Julius Jacobson (ed.), The Negro and the American Labor Movement (New York, 1968), pp. 114–15.
85. THE JOINT CONVENTION IN ALABAMA
Shortly after 9 o’clock President Young called the convention to order and stated that the operators would be in the hall in a few minutes. He suggested the scale committee do the talking for the operators.
A delegate thought it would be better for each delegation to have a spokesman.
A colored delegate said the negotiations should be conducted as they were last year.
President Young said if the convention decided that the scale was to be open to general discussion, every delegate, as a matter of course, could participate.
A motion was offered that if the operators in their arguments selected one particular place, the delegates from that place be allowed to make remarks.
National Committeeman Fairley said he was in favor of allowing every88 delegate to speak his mind, but the matter of the scale would have to be talked over between a committee of the operators and the committee at the convention. At all events, the scale would have to be ratified by the convention. All this discussion was unnecessary, because there will be no limit to free speech at the seasonable time. But if it is not wise to break into the negotiations of the joint scale committee. He called the attention of the convention to the fact that if every delegate intends to exercise the right to talk, the convention will not adjourn before Christmas. The matter will come down to what it did last year and previous years, a number of men will have to be appointed to discuss and defend the rights of the miners. (Applause.) He concluded by saying the spirit which seems to be manifest, that rights of delegates were to be curtailed, had no substance. When the convention adjourned every delegate should feel that he had a share of the responsibility of making the scale.
The question recurred upon the motion and it was adopted.
While waiting for the operators Delegate Scott sang “The Honest working-man,” in fine voice.
Some of the delegates joined in the chorus:
“It’s a glorious union,
Deny it who can.
That defends the rights
Of a workingman.”
Charley Farley, colored, ascended the rostrom and sang “We are Marching to Canaan.” It had the old-time camp meeting lilt and the colored delegates crooned the lines and broke into the chorus:
“Who is there among us,
The true and the tried.
Who’ll stand by his fellows.
Who’s on Che Lord’s side.”
Delegate Jack Orr responded to the call of the convention with “Silver Bells of Memor.” The convention took up the refrain with gusto.
There was a storm of calls for “Bill Fairley,” to sing a song. “I’m never bluffed,” he said with a smile. “I hope the reporters will not take down my song.” He sang “Give Me Back. My Heart.”
Birmingham Labor Advocate, June 30, 1900.