BLACK COAL MINERS AND THE ISSUE OF STRIKEBREAKING
Patterns of conflict in the southern Illinois coal fields during the 1890s present an excellent microcosm of working class race relations in the mining industry. In 1897, twenty mine operators, led by the Chicago-Virden Coal Company, objected to the wage settlement established by an industry-wide agreement that same year, complaining that high labor costs was pricing Illinois coal out of the Chicago market. When the UMW rejected their appeal for an exception to the agreement, the Chicago-Virden Company decided to operate its Pana and Virden mines, two of the largest in the state, with nonunion labor. After several unsuccessful attempts to use white scabs, the company began to recruit poor black workers from Alabama (Doc. 1–12).
The Afro-American Labor and Protective Association of Birmingham opposed the recruiting of Negro strikebreakers for the Chicago-Virden Company in its struggle with the United Mine Workers, but to no avail. Once the Alabama recruits discovered that a strike was in progress, however, most of them refused to work, but according to a Chicago weekly, armed guards threatened to “shoot Negroes who attempted to leave.” Determined to keep out all black scabs, well armed Illinois miners opened a steady fire as the trainload of strikebreakers arrived at Virden. Company guards returned fire, killing fourteen white miners and wounding twenty-four others. A few blacks were also wounded. Illinois Governor John R. Tanner called out the National Guard, and promised the white miners that he would not tolerate the importation of blacks into Pana and Virden (Doc. 13–29).
The white miners applauded the governor for his stand, as did the AFL, but to most black spokesmen, “Tannerism” symbolized a racial conspiracy between white politicians and trade unionists. “They bar the Negro from the benefits that unions are designed to confer,” the Colored American raged, and the Christian Recorder expressed sympathy for the striking miners, but chastised the strikers for barring black miners from the “employment by which they can earn bread.” Not even the fact that blacks numbered among the strikers reduced the bitterness voiced in the black press. Trade unions could not be trusted, went the argument, not even those which admitted blacks, for “as soon as unionism was strong enough in these United States, it joined forces with the colored man’s enemy and cried ‘no quarter.’” The Freeman of Indianapolis and the Recorder of Philadelphia were the only two black papers to take a different view of the events in Illinois. The Freeman condemned the mine operators “for the introduction of Negro workmen for the express purpose of defeating white workmen,” and caustically suggested if the employers were so concerned about the employment opportunities for blacks, “let them employ Negro workmen in times of peace; put them in wherever they can and as many as they can until the faces of black men excite no curiosity.” At the same time, it urged the trade unions to contribute toward “the relaxation of the high-tensioned relations between the races” by proving that “they are for the Negro workmen.” The Recorder concurred and added its own plea for the union movement “to lower the bars and allow Negro labor to enter. Give us a chance” (Doc. 30–55). A liberal white paper pondered the dilemma of the black worker: “If nonunion men are not permitted to work and colored men are not permitted to join the union, where does the colored man come in? Or does he stay out?”
1. TWO ADVERTISEMENTS
WANTED COLORED coal-miners for Weir City, Kans., district, the paradise for colored people. Ninety-seven cents per ton. September 1 to March 1; 87-1/2 cents per ton March 1 to September 1, for screened coal over seven-eighths opening. Special train will leave Birmingham the 13th. Transportation advanced. Get ready and go to the land of promise.
Colored Coal Miners Wanted for Weir City district, Kansas. Coal 3 feet 10 inches high. Since issue of first circular, price paid for mining has been advanced to one dollar per ton in winter and ninety cents in summer, for lump coal screened over seven-eighths inch screen. Payday, twice a month, in cash. Transportation will not exceed ten dollars, which will be advanced. Special train leaves Birmingham Tuesday night, June 13. Leave your name at Kansas City railway office, 1714 Morris Avenue.
Sterling D. Spero and Abram L. Harris, The Black Worker: The Negro and the Labor Movement (New York, 1931), p. 211.
2. COLORED MEN REFLECT
Southern Labor Against Northern Labor89 From John Swinton’s Paper
A short time ago our correspondent at Bevier, in Missouri, told of the suffering of the coal miners, who, during their strike, were supplanted by colored men, anxious to work for such pay as is given to the dogs of Constantinople. In the case of the striking miners of Grape Creek, in Illinois, gangs of poor colored men were transferred from the South, by the corporation, to take their places. During the Hocking Valley troubles in Ohio, two years ago, colored men were brought from the South, as well as Huns from across the ocean, to break the strike; and Miner Smith has just sent a letter from Ohio to the Pittsburg Labor Tribune, in which he says: “Our district is visited by fifty-six blacklegs (colored men) from Richmond, Va., and there are rumors of one hundred more on the road for No. 9 district, Ohio. This is the remuneration they are giving us, the boys in blue, who served one to five years in the Union army to make them free citizens!”90
There have been other examples of the same kind in Western Pennsylvania. In fact, as the Labor Tribune says, the transfer of Negroes from the old slave States to the North for the purpose of breaking down wages, may grow into fashion until it will rival or even excel the importation of contract labor. It is hard to find fault with the poor colored men for the part they have taken in these inroads; but for the capitalists who have brought them to the North there should be nothing short of positive popular condemnation. In the country districts of the South, the Negro laborers are held in a condition akin to slavery. They are paid so little wages, receive so little cash after their fifty or seventy-five cents a day suffers from the “pluck-me” system, that they are easily lured to the North at wages disgustingly inadequate for white workingmen. The imposition on the Negroes is systematically carried on. An illustration of this lately came from the Georgia mines of the “pious” Senator Brown, where the practice of the old slavery devices raised revolt among the convicts employed—all Negroes—who had been supplied by the courts who habitually sentence Negroes to ten and even twenty years imprisonment (convict labor) for petty crimes which would go unwhipt of justice committed by white men. They are pushed to the wall by the same spirit that struck the Union to maintain slavery, and every year indicates that the old slavedrivers who retain this spirit are getting the Negro in trim to degrade the laborer of the North. The action is systematically to this end; it is not found in spurts, but sticks out everywhere outside the cities of the South.91
Here is work for the colored press, which we especially commend to that champion of the colored roll, the New York Freeman, edited by our brilliant friend, T. Thomas Fortune. While every effort must be made to assert the rights of the colored laborers of the Union, they should be loudly warned against being used as tools to break down the white labor of the North.92
New York Freeman, December 4, 1886.
3. WHITE AND COLORED LABORERS DETRIMENTAL
In another column we print an article from John Swinton’s Paper, headed “Colored men, Reflect,” which should be carefully read by every colored man. The charge is there made that colored men are imported from the South by labor contractors to take the place of Northern white Laborers who are on strike. In other articles on the labor question we have placed ourselves squarely on record as opposed to this sort of thing as being opposed to the common interest of laboring men and as yielding only a temporary benefit to the colored man. We desire here to emphasize this important fact.
The labor organizations of the country have shown a most magnanimous and fraternal disposition to put colored men on equal footing with white members, and to stand by them in all their efforts to better the common lot of the laborer. This being true, colored men, in the North or the South, cannot afford to undermine white laborers when they make organized resistance to unjust wages or treatment at the hands of employers. There is no obstacle in the way, therefore let the colored laborer make common cause with the white laborer. They cannot pursue any other course without mutual loss and permanent disadvantage.
Nobody will dispute that the lot of the colored laborer of the South is as severe as it can be made, and that the wages paid are not such as to impart to the physical man the sustenance absolutely necessary to enable the laborer to live and produce up to the normal standard. This being true, it is not to be marvelled at that colored men should embrace the inducements to better their condition held out to them by labor agents. These laborers are not always acquainted with the real condition of things in a district until after they have reached it, and when they have either to go to work or break the contracts and starve or suffer the effects of starvation in their efforts to reach again their Southern homes. It is a work of self protection for the labor organizations of the North to educate the colored laborers of the South on the true conditions of the labor problem in the North.
In the meantime we have no doubt John Swinton’s Paper will read a severe lesson to those white New York laborers who went to Virginia last week to take the places of dissatisfied colored stevedores. This conduct of the white men is as reprehensible as the conduct of the colored men; indeed more so, as Northern labor is supposed to be more intelligent than Southern labor. Lay on the lash, Mr. Swinton; lay on the lash.
New York Freeman, December 25, 1886.
Good Wages Earned
EVANS, Iowa, special to The Freeman:
There are now about 200 Negro miners at Evans and more are coming. But few white men are employed here, most of them having gone out on the recent coal miners’ strike. I am glad to say that the black miners used good sense in holding their jobs, for the result is that Negro miners are now very popular with the mining operators, and the prospect for future work is very good. About 200 Negroes came to this county last week from West Virginia, and 300 more are expected to arrive this week. Jobs are waiting for them all in the various mines throughout the county, and good inducements are offered. The miners of this county make from $40 to $75 a month. Those who are inclined to save their money are doing well; many of them own their homes, and some have houses to rent or money to loan.
The Freeman (Indianapolis), July 11, 1891.
5. THE NEGRO AND STRIKES
For some time past the warfare between labor and capital as shown by strikes has been confined to whites.
The Negro has to a great extent kept aloof and given no trouble, in sometimes taking the places, of white strikers and finding thereby avenues of labor open to him through necessity, which had formerly been closed.
But the indications are that he is not to continue in this passive attitude from certain events which have recently transpired.
Whether it will be for his best interest or not the trend of things seem to be that he will be swept into the general movement and array himself on the side of labor. This is but natural and proves that the Negro in this, as in every other case in this country where general interest are involved, takes ground outside of racial lines.
The Christian Recorder, June 7, 1894.
6. THE MINING RIOTS
The daily press the past week had teemed with specials from different sections of the land which bespoke a condition of things the next door to bloodshed and a reign of civil strife and anarchy. Indiana’s brave volunteer force, some hundreds strong, was ordered out by Gov. Matthews and for a number of days have been at the seat of the “coal war” in Clay, Sullivan, Parke and other counties. At this writing (Tuesday noon), the reports are not encouraging. The miners seem savagely in earnest, and, if reports are true, will stop at nothing to gain their point. It is a most unhappy condition of things, and if nothing more serious grows out than has already, nevertheless the amount of damage done to invested capital and its twin brother labor, will reach a great sum, to say nothing of other damaging results to all concerned, not to be readily computed by dollars and cents. Without attempting at this time to enter into a discussion of the probable causes of these outbreaks that are multiplying so fast upon the surface of the body politic of the country, one thing is plain to the dullest observer, something is wrong, the times are out of joint, and he is a wise man and a statesman out of the ordinary who can anywhere near accurately forecast the outcome. A good book for contemporaries and observers to read these days is Carlyle’s French Revolution. There is much in the growing conditions around us to remind us of the lurid intimations that preceded that awful period of bloodshed and horror as depicted in that great work.93
The Freeman (Indianapolis), June 9, 1894.
7. LABOR OUTLOOK FOR COLORED MEN
Seldom does an ill wind blow upon this nation without conveying some good to the Negro. The industrial agitations and upheavals that have not quite subsided seem to forcibly illustrate this fact in point of tendency and indications, to say the least. What the outcome may disclose is not quite so certain, but at present, Negro labor which has hitherto been at a discount, if not generally ignored as an industrial factor, has clothed itself with a prestige and promise which none but the unobservant need gainsay or deny.
At the centre of the great Western strike we have already shown to what extent the colored workman has been invited to enter new industrial avenues. Positions which he has never been able to reach in the line of promotion or competency, has been thrown open to him by considerate railroad companies. In the State of Illinois, mining corporations have agreed to employ him as never before. So encouraging is the premium placed upon his industrial worth and trustworthiness even as a skilled laborer, that numbers of his race are now being trained by a railroad enterprise in Texas, to whom permanent employment has been guaranteed in the event of dissaffection or uprising on the part of the white labor forces now mastering that situation.
The duty of the colored workman under the circumstances and in the light of the logic of the situation is sufficiently clear and incumbent. He must acquire competency as a workman and skillfulness as a laborer. As a skilled laborer he will sooner be in greater demand than ever before. As a reliable factor attention will be taken from foreigners and turned to him. He must become the subject of systematic management. He must become organized, not to control labor but to control himself. Self-protection and self-direction can never be his, as long as he remains outside of methodic and organized government. As he operates so successfully as a religious power in virtue of self-governing institutions, he will serve himself best as an industrial force by standing together with his kind in a judicious manner.
Let the leaders of the race enjoin upon their followers the duty of biding their time with patience and fitness. Let them be shown the folly and danger of co-operating with labor malcontents in their fight against capital. As the balance wheel of industrial power in this country there is an encouraging future for the colored man, if he be cautious and politic in his approach thereto.
The Christian Recorder, July 19, 1894.
8. THE SPRING VALLEY RIOT
The Philadelphia Telegraph says:
The rioting, the attacks on person and property at Spring Valley, Ill., should not be considered too seriously by anyone who believes that our immigration laws are so nearly perfect as to need no revision, radical or otherwise. The outrages inflicted upon the negro miners of Spring Valley are some of the natural outgrowths of these laws, which the Congress of the United States finds so nearly perfect as to render any material alteration of them undesirable. The colored American citizens were formally notified by the non-English-speaking mob that if they, their women and children, did not leave Spring Valley within the limits of a single day “they would be shot down in their tracks,” all of them, without discrimination as to age or sex. Prior to the holding of this meeting, at which it was resolved by 2,000 Italians to issue the notice of expulsion, a number of the negro miners had been shot or clubbed down in their tracks by these non-English-speaking foreigners. Of course they did as they were warned to do, and when later 500 American miners adopted a resolution that they should return and be permitted to work unmolested by others, the Italians again declared that they should not be allowed so to do.
The outrages perpetrated upon the colored workingmen, their women and children, the practical confiscation of their property, the denial of every one of their rights of citizenship, and the terrorism exerted to banish them, were not the acts of the American white miners; they were the acts of the Italian miners, of those ignorant, vicious, morally degraded immigrants from Italy to whom this country has thrown open its generous doors in welcome, and after a brief period, before they can speak the language of the country, to the highest privileges of citizenship—namely, the suffrage. Not only these scum of Italy are voters at Spring Valley, but one of their number is Mayor of the city, and he has been again and again, by the most reliable authorities, charged with sympathizing with his murderous countrymen in their assaults upon the persons and property of the colored miners. This affair would serve as a convincing object-lesson to any body of men who cared to learn the truth, but from the manner Congress has so long faltered with the demand for a revision of the Immigration laws, it is obvious that body does not want to learn anything on the subject.
The Detroit Tribune says:
It is not a labor strike, but a race riot. These Italians, who are still so un-American that they require to have the mayor’s address interpreted to them, have taken it upon themselves to say that no colored man, born upon the soil, shall work or even live in that community. We are told in the dispatches that “The foreign element, which dominates the situation, declares that no man, black or white, shall return to work until the coal company agrees to discharge every colored man in its employ, and also to hire no new men of either race; that all idle men”—whom they approve—“in Spring Valley shall be given employment.” This is their modest demand. What country is this, anyway? Can this be America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Is it possible that there is law in Illinois, and peace officers, and a militia, and a governor? Aye! there’s the rub! Illinois has a governor, but someway the impression has gone out, since he pardoned the Haymarket anarchists, that his sympathies are not strong for law and order.94
The Memphis Commercial Appeal says:
So they are learning something of the nature of the negro up in Illinois now. It is well. When they become thoroughly acquainted with him they will know that it is his disposition not to stay in his place, but to take an inch if allowed an ell. They will also come to the conclusion that he knows how to misrepresent the situation—an accomplishment he has probably learned from overzealous coon-bussers north of Mason and Dixon’s line. He is putting up the plea of persecution now in the Spring Valley affair, when his side was really the aggressor.
The Chicago Dispatch says:
Nothing in the Spring Valley situation warrants the assumption that war is being waged against the negro race. The negro miners at that point belong to the “tough” classes, and they unfortunately have become embroiled with equally “tough” aliens in a riotous outbreak. A handful of lawless negroes are quarreling with a handful of lawless Italians. But there is no discrimination against the colored man and brother here.
The Jacksonville Times-Union says:
This is the most disgraceful piece of business that ever soiled the records of a State. It is not a mere case of mob violence. It is the indorsement of mob violence and the protection of mobs by the authorities of the town, county, and State.
Public Opinion (Chicago), August 15, 1895.
The FREEMAN is certainly delighted to know that justice is being meted out to the perpetrators of the Spring Valley outrages. The mayor has been indicted on several counts. The main charge is, that, he knowing the intentions of the mob failed to order them to disperse. This in itself, would amount to complicity. It is very likely that he will be removed from office. A number of other persons are indicted, including aldermen of the city. We see no necessity for any unusual demonstration because of this justice. We expect it in this latitude.
The Freeman (Indianapolis), September 14, 1895.
10. SOME DAY
Some day men and women who labor will form an universal association for the purpose of world-wide co-operation and there will be no lines or divisions because of creed, nor of distinction because of color, and the only requisite of membership will be a good character, and the fact of being a toiler. Toil then will be an honorable sign, and men and women will more readily embrace it. No false notions, nor erroneous opinions, as to whom the wealth produced belongs to will then prevail, and it will be very easy to separate the drones from the industrious people, and just as easy to determine “that if any do not work, neither shall they eat.”
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 13, 1898.
11. WORK FOR NEGRO MINERS
A car load of Negro miners left Ft. Scott, Kans., Monday for the mines at Ft. Yule and Ft. Fleming. A special train followed, bearing Deputy United States Marshalls who will promptly arrest the strikers should they interfere with the new men. Three hundred Negro miners from West Virginia have been sent to work in the mines in Indian territory.
The Recorder (Indianapolis), June 24, 1899.
12. INTERVIEW WITH A WHITE U.M.W. MEMBER
As far as we are concerned as miners, the colored men are with us in the mines. They work side by side with us. They are members of our organization; can receive as much consideration from the officials of the organization as any other members, no matter what color. We treat them that way . . . there is only one particular objection, and that is they are used to a great extent in being taken from one place to another to break a strike. . . .
W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, ed., The Negro Artisan (Atlanta, 1902), pp. 161, 177.
100 Colored Laborers
Colored laborers—coal miners, drivers, and laborers—for mine work in Illinois. Steady work and regular pay every two weeks. The coal is 7 feet high. Pay 25 cents per ton run of mine; $1.75 per day for drivers; $1.50 for mine laborers.
No charges for blacksmithing. All coal weighed on tipples before being dumped.
The company has no commissaries.
Want nothing but first-class men. Bring your tools well tied up if you wish to carry them. Transportation will be furnished and ample time given you to pay the same; which will be very cheap. We will leave here on the Kansas City train Monday night at 10 o’clock. You be at the Union Depot promptly at 9 a.m. if you wish to go. For further information apply to Kansas City passenger office. 1914 Morris avenue. Men living in the city need not apply.
J. J. Sullivan
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 1, 1898.
Benj. and Jack Anderson being duly sworn, upon their oath say they are residents of Birmingham, Ala., resided at Birmingham for 11 years; occupation coal miners; say that on Monday Aug. 22, 1898, they were approached by two white men and one colored man who represented that they were from Pana, Ill.; that most of the miners had gone to the war for two years; that there was a new mine opening there and a great demand for labor, and they wanted 150 men; and there was no trouble there; said about eight or nine months ago there had been a little trouble but that was all settled; affiants said they were working . . . but on being told that they could make from $3 to $5 per day were induced to give up their jobs and go to Pana.
Victor Hicken, “The Virden and Pana Mine Wars of 1898,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 52 (Summer, 1959): 267.
15. NEGROES IN STRIKERS’ PLACES
The Arrival of 200 Alabama Miners May Cause a Crisis at Pana
PANA, Ill., Aug. 25—Sheriff Cobb assembled 125 deputies today, swore all in and gave them instructions to reassemble, armed with Winchester, and meet a number of negroes expected to arrive from Alabama to work here in the coal mines. Ten negroes arrived at Pana last night to take the place of white miners here who have been on a strike here for several months. The negroes were escorted to the city limits by a committee of miners and induced to leave town. The strikers are reinforced by union miners from over the state.
The strikers assembled today in large bodies awaiting the arrival of the Alabama negroes. The train arrived in Pana from Birmingham, Ala., with 200 negroes, but was rushed through the city to the Springside coal mine, outside the city limits, where the negroes were unloaded under the guard of deputy sheriffs.
Several hundred miners were at the Union depot to meet the negroes and talk with them, but were unable to do so. All the grounds at the Springside mines are heavily guarded, and no citizens are permitted to pass the lines.
The strike leaders have requested Governor Tanner to take action regarding the mining efficiency of the negroes, and he has answered that he will send state mine inspectors to examine the men.95
The American (Coffeyville, Kansas), August 27, 1898.
16. AFFAIRS AT PANA
The effort to start the Pana, Ill., mines with imported southern colored labor seems to have been a failure, and we sincerely hope it will continue to be. We are sure that all that can legitimately be done will be done by the state authorities of Illinois to prevent an undesirable, incompetent, illegal class of employees from being employed in any part of that state. This is proven by the action of Governor Tanner in sending the Secretary of the Bureau of Statistics, Hon. David Ross, down to Panay, to make an investigation of conditions there and determine whether or not the military were wanted. Secretary Ross made his report, and the militia are at their homes. He (Ross) it will be observed by reading Scaife’s letter, instructed Mine Inspector Rutledge to see that the requirements of the two years’ mining experience law was fully complied with and as a consequence many of the imported men can only work as laborers for the more experienced ones. In addition to the above we publish a clipping from there which shows that the National Vice President and State Secretary-Treasurer as well as Sub-district Presidents Cartwright and Topham, were, and we presume are, actively engaged in the work of assisting the Pana miners, with the best advice and with the sinews of war as far as their limited resources will permit, so that it is safe to say the ground will be stubbornly contested and every advantage will be quickly seized to gain the victory for the men, who should not have been compelled to suspend at last not since they made a reasonable proposition and which proposition was endorsed and recommended as the price to be paid by the State Board of Arbitration who also investigated the trouble. The clipping referred to reads as follows:
Contrary to predictions no lawlessness is resorted to by the striking white miners, although they have been reinforced by the arrival of numbers of union miners from over the state. John Mitchell, of Spring Valley, Ill., National Vice President of the United Mine Workers; John W. Russell, of Danville, State Vice President; W. D. Ryan, State Secretary-Treasurer; President Cartwright of Springfield District; and President Topham, of the Danville District are here advising with the strikers.96
The officers express the opinion that the remaining blacks, some fifty in all, will leave the city in a few days after learning the real situation. Mine owner Penwell stated today, however, that it is the intention of the local coal operator’s association to have shipped in 150 more negroes from Alabama as soon as possible. The sixty-five negroes who left the Springside mine camps yesterday have notified their friends at Birmingham, Woodward and Bessemer, Ala., of the conditions existing here, advising them to have nothing to do with the propositions to come to Pana. The union miners sent 37 of the negroes to Chicago last night in a special car, and 20 back to Alabama, while several walked out of town in different directions on the railroads during the night.
State Mine Inspector Walter Rutledge, of Alton, arrived here today and examined the Alabama negroes remaining at the Springside mine. He found only a part of them to be competent miners.
It will be noticed by reading the “dodger” sent us by Sullivan, of Adger, Ala., and which was plucked by him from a telegraph pole near that place, and which we reproduce in another column, that it is a “decoy duck” from beginning to end; that the real destination in Illinois is not given, and that many other items of information which would want to be known to a person seeking employment for an honest, honorable purpose before he would consent to emigrate even though his railroad fare was cheap and ample time given to reimburse the company for the advance to pay it with. It is evident that the originators depended for success not so much on the promises held out as they did upon the ignorance of the parties whom they wished to secure through deception to enable them to defeat the striking miners.
We anticipate that more trouble will be experienced in securing black legs in Alabama than formerly, if, indeed, they can be secured at all among the experienced mine workers, such as will be permitted to do mining in Illinois, for the reason that President Ratchford has notified State President Fairley, of Alabama, and Board Member Dilcher, who is also in that state, of the efforts being made to have colored men from that state go to Illinois. The following message was sent to the officials named:
Indianapolis, Aug. 26, 1898
To W. R. Fairley, Pratt City, Ala:
Negro miners are being imported from your State to the striking districts of Illinois. Those who arrived have refused to work, and have joined the union or left the state. Further importation must be stopped by yourself and Dilcher. Illinois miners are striking against reduction since April 1st.
M. D. RATCHFORD.
From reading the above it will be seen that it will be no easy task to start the Pana mines with imported labor of any kind, and we believe that the strikers will come out victorious. Natural requirements will soon add strength to their position by creating a greater demand for coal, and this fact is recognized and appreciated by the mine owners, hence their persistent effort to start the mines at any and all hazards. Idleness means loss of money at any time, but in a month or so later the loss will become greater and the demand of such a character that they can not afford to ignore it because of maintaining an unwarrantable attitude toward scale prices.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 1, 1898.
17. MISUNDERSTOOD “DODGER”
Some misunderstanding has occurred because of our publication last week of a dodger furnished us by J. J. Sullivan, of Adger, Ala., concerning the importation of negro miners to Illinois. Just why the matter should be misunderstood we are unable to say. The object of the circular was clearly stated by Mr. Sullivan and its deceptive character was pointed out by us, and for fear that any would be deceived we concluded that it would be the proper thing to do to publish it just as it was sent to us and to draw attention to its iniquity in our columns. We trust that the circular and Mr. Sullivan and our remarks pertaining thereto will be read by all, for we believe that no mine worker so doing will be induced to go to any part of Illinois to work during the pending trouble.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 8, 1898.
18. EX-CONVICTS POOR MINERS
The ex-convicts are not a success as coal diggers by any means. The Springside mine, according to the Beacon Light, a paper published in the interest of the conspirators against the peace and welfare of Pana, worked four weeks and hoisted thirty-five cars. Fifty-four ex-convicts were employed all this time, so that it will readily be seen that the coal is costing them a trifle over 40 cents per ton. Penwells have worked eight days and have averaged one car per day with fifty scabs, nine of which are “white niggers.” From this it will be seen that beyond aggravating the men who are locked out, the coal they produce cuts no figure.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 29, 1898.
19. AFFAIRS AT PANA
We think the Governor can and will find means to right affairs at Pana and restore peace and tranquility to the troubled community. That such is needed the following clipping from a Pana paper . . . proves:
“Saturday night will long be remembered in Pana, not from the fact of riots or anything of the kind, for on that score everything is quiet, but from the indignities that are being heaped upon our citizens by not only the sheriff and his deputies, but by the black convict negroes themselves. These negroes have, by their treatment received from the hands of the operators and the officers, become so insulting in their actions that the same state of affairs would not be allowed in any other city but Pana. It does seem to us that an indignant public should rise up en masse and put a stop to the present state of affairs.
It is patent to all good citizens that the sole object of the operators, aided and abetted by the sheriff, is to create a riot if possible and in that event they hope to induce the Governor to send troops here, but so far their efforts in that direction have all been for naught.
Negroes continue to parade the streets both day and night and insult both ladies and gentlemen. These negroes are heavily armed and if any reply is made by the citizens to these insults the negroes will run their hands to their hip pockets with the words: “We will kill all of you white trash if you fool with us.” Is there another community, unless it is Rosemond, which would tolerate this state of affairs for a day? This state of things can be laid at the door of Overholt, Penwell, Broehl and Sheriff Coburn, who are backed up by three or four of Pana’s wealthy men, who if it comes to the worst can leave town and who cares no more for the town than a rat does for an ant. Our best citizens are jerked up and put under bonds for not serving as deputies where no riots exist. The grand jury has been prevailed upon to bring in indictments against parties who have violated no law and but for the inference of three or four of our citizens would have been compelled to go to Taylorville and be locked up in jail over Sunday, for that was the scheme, but it did not work. How long Pana is going to stand this we do not know.
“Last evening while Ex-Alderman Ed Molz was going home he was stopped by two big black buck niggers and when resenting their insults, they knocked Mr. Molz down and then left him. Again while Louis Broadraan was passing Penwell’s he was ordered to get “out of the way, you d—d cripple, by a big black scoundrel, as the same time kicking at his crutches to injure the boy. The cripple was bothering no one, and the black buck’s actions entitled him to arrest, which should have been done.”
“At the time the insult to young Broadman was offered, nearly all of the negro convicts had been brought to his place of business by George V. Penwell himself, so it is rumored, for the purpose of inciting a riot, and yet during all of the time there was a line of deputies in close to the front of the store building and not a hand was raised by them to interfere with the black brutes. The only reason that there was no riot was through the efforts of A. B. Corraan, Sr., Mose Finerock and Officers Smith and Lee, who went among the outraged union miners and spoke words of wisdom and cautioned them to hold themselves in check. We believe in equal rights to all when used in a proper manner, but right now it seems to be all one-sided. If a riot could be started by the operators and sheriff that fact would relieve them of all responsibility for the payment of the big deputy bill.
While Sheriff Coburn and deputies were marching their prisoners to dinner Saturday the biggest strike of the season occurred when it was learned that arrangements had been made by the sheriff for dinner at the New Grand Bakery and Restaurant. The prisoners gave notice that they would go without anything to eat for a week before they would eat in any “scab” shop. They were marched back to the city hall and later given a dinner by State Secretary W. D. Ryan of the U.M.W. of A., and still later while Sheriff Coburn was in Baker’s saloon taking a drink he stated that when he ordered the dinner at the New Grand he did not think anything about it being a nonunion shop.
“As we go to press all is quiet.”
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 22, 1898.
20. CARRY THEIR POINT
Virden Miners Refuse to Permit Negroes to Land There
Men Brought Here and Fall Into John Hunter’s Hands—President of United Min Workers is Eloquent and Prevails on Men to Return
The negroes from Birmingham, Ala., who were to take the places of the striking miners of the Chicago-Virden company at Virden, are in this city and are in the hands of the United Mine Workers of America. A special train carrying 100 negroes, including sixteen women, arrived in Virden early yesterday morning, but the track was lined with striking miners, armed to the teeth, and no attempt to stop them was made.
The train was run to this city and it was met there by a number of labor men, among them President John Hunter of the United Mine Workers of America. Several speeches were made and the men were induced to leave the cars and march to the executive mansion where it was expected Governor Tanner would address them. The Governor had not been notified of the coming of the miners and he was not at the mansion when they arrived. Colonel Tanner appeared for him and briefly thanked the miners for the visit, but he said he would not discuss the mining situation in the absence of the Governor.
President Hunter then induced the negroes to visit the headquarters of the United Mine Workers where several addresses were made, urging them not to take the places of the Virden strikers. The negroes were fed and the president assured them that they would be furnished transportation to their homes if they would desert Operator Lukens and stand by the union. This the negroes voted to do, not a vote being cast against the proposition.
The Alabama miners claim that they were deceived into coming to Illinois with false representations made by the men who hired them, and by circulars, which stated that they could make as high as $4 a day in the Virden mine. They say they knew nothing of the labor trouble at Virden until they came to the town and found the railroad tracks lined with armed men. They were very indignant at Thomas Hayward, who came with them as their leader, and there was talk of lynching him. Hayward insisted that he had acted in good faith not knowing that there was a strike oil at Virden.
The negroes, numbering over one hundred, left Birmingham about midnight Thursday night. They were in special coaches attached to a regular train. The trip was a slow one to East St. Louis and that point was not reached until Saturday night. The train was side-tracked at East St. Louis and it was long after midnight before the start for Virden was made. It was shortly after 6 o’clock when the train reached Virden.
It was the intention to side track the train on a switch near the coal mine at Virden and march the men and women to the houses situated along the siding leading from the mine, but the miners of Virden knew for two days that negroes were coming from the South to work and they were on the alert for them. For the last two days and nights the miners were on watch and were determined that the imported miners should not get off the train.
When the news that they were coming was first made known, a meeting of the miners was held at Virden and it was decided that they would use no violence but would approach the negroes in a friendly way, but the miners armed themselves with clubs and some carried revolvers. The men stood armed all through the heavy rain of Saturday night, awaiting the arrival of the train for they were confident that it would reach there during the night. The train consisted of a baggage car and two coaches and it was sighted in the early morning. The engineer had been given orders not to stop at the depot but to make a running switch and back in at the mine.
As the train neared the depot the detectives who were on it looked out and on seeing the mob lined along the track, concluded it was not policy to carry out the original plan. The engineer had the train under control and when he saw the crowd, he began looking back for signals. Directly two detectives gave him a forward signal and he opened his throttle. The train darted past the switch and was run to Auburn. Here a consultation was held between the detectives and the representatives of the mine on board and it was decided to proceed to this city. The train was started and there was no further trouble until this city was reached.
A coal miner from Virden came to the city on the first train and spent the day here. In conversation with a representative of the Journal he describes the situation at Virden when the train went through as follows:
“The miners had been informed that the negroes were coming and were determined they should not get off the train. We had agreed not to use any violence but to argue with them and make clear the real situation. There were over three hundred miners in the crowd when the train reached the city. We were lined up along the railroad track. We saw that the train was reducing speed and we were preparing to surround it when it stopped. We saw several men poke their heads from the platforms and give the engineer a signal to go ahead. The train then started out at full speed and passed the crowd like a shot out of a cannon. We then were at a loss to know what the intentions of the railroad people were. One of the men telephoned to Auburn and found out that the train left there for Springfield. We then knew we had gained our point and there was general rejoicing among the men.”
As the train was nearing Virden a number of men in the cars looked out of the windows and on seeing the crowd, they became greatly excited. In one of the coaches there was great turmoil until one of the detectives assured the men that there was no danger of any trouble and that they would be protected. One of the negroes said:
“I can tell you I was might scared this morning when I looked out dat window and saw all them men there, I wished I was back in old Birmingham. I dun thought we was all gwine to be hurt. I tell you I was might glad when dat train started goin’ fast.”
THEY REACHED SPRINGFIELD
The train bearing the negroes arrived at Springfield at 8 o’clock. The train was side-tracked at the freight depot on North Third street and the presence of the miners soon became known to the leaders of the local labor unions. The men were in charge of Thomas Hayward, who had hired them at the insistence of the Virden operators. He was at a loss to know what to do with the men when he got them here and it was an easy matter for the officials of the United Mine Workers of America to secure control of the men.
Will Fannon of the Black Diamond shaft was one of the first of the union men to learn of the arrival of the negroes and he posted off to the Collins House to notify President Hunter. In the meantime President Hinman, of the State Federation of Labor, had heard of the coming of the negroes and he was at the depot when Hunter came up. With Mr. Hunter was J. A. Crawford, the former State President of the United Mine Workers, and George Dunman, a labor leader of Lisbon, O., who was in the city consulting Hunter.
President Hunter was almost out of breath when he reached the depot, for he had run almost all of the way from the hotel to the depot. Pale with excitement, he pushed his way through the crowd to the train and addressed the men in the cars. “I would like to talk to you men,” he said. “I want to say that we do not come here to mob you or to injure you in any way. We only want to talk to you and reason with you. We would like for you to come from the cars so that we can talk to you. I will give you my word as State President of the Illinois United Mine Workers that you will not be hurt. We will see that you are protected. Only give us a chance to explain the condition of affairs at Virden.”
The benevolent Scotch face of the labor leader beamed on the crowd of frightened negroes in the cars and reassured them. “Come on out,” urged the President again. “I give you my word that you will not be harmed. We are your friends. All we want to do is to prevent you from making a mistake that you will regret. We believe you are honest men and that you have been imposed on in coming north.”
The appeal had its effect and there was a general movement toward the car doors. A large crowd had gathered by this time, but it was a peaceable body of churchgoers and the negroes seeing that there was no danger of a hostile demonstration, began to file out and gather around the President of the miners’ organization. One of them, who appeared to be a sort of leader, said were ready to hear what Mr. Hunter had to say.
Then the veteran agitator made one of his characteristic speeches. He reviewed the history of the trouble at Pana and Virden in his own way, told of the struggles of the Illinois miners in pathetic appeal to the negroes to return to their homes. He was satisfied, he said, that they had been deceived in coming here and he assured the men that if they would stand by the union, it would protect them and see that they got home safely. President Hunter was careful to avoid threats and his speech took well. When he concluded, there were murmurs of approval from the crowd.
J. A. Crawford followed up this advantage in short order and supplemented what his brother Scot had said with a further appeal to the negroes to stand by the union. He told the men that preparations had been made at Virden to house them near the mines like so many cattle, where they would have to live as chattel slaves shunned and despised by their fellows. He hoped, he said, that there was too much manhood about them to submit to this and he insisted that the only thing for them to do was to return home.
OPERATORS ARE SCORED
Crawford vigourously scored the coal operators and told the men that if they stood by them it would be to their undoing. They had deceived them in getting them to Illinois, he said, and they would not hesitate to further deceive them after they reached Virden. Once they were within the stockade he said, they would be at the mercy of masters as hateful as the slave drivers of the South and their condition would be no better than that of their fathers in slavery days.
By this time the negroes were showing unmistakable signs or wavering to the side of the strike leaders and Hayward made a feeble effort to stem the current of opinion. He insisted that he had acted in good faith and that the conditions he had promised would be complied with if the men went to Virden. Hayward denied that he knew anything of the labor trouble when he induced the men to come to Virden and he said that he believed there would be no trouble. The coal mine people, he insisted, were reliable and he felt that every agreement made with him would be carried out. He was in favor of giving them a chance, anyhow, he said, and he appealed to the men to stand by their new employers. They were in a strange country, he reasoned, and they knew nothing of the merits of the controversy at Virden other than what they were told by men they did not know.
State President Hunter closed the speech-making at the depot. He declared that he had correctly outlined the condition of affairs at Pana and he defied anyone to successfully contradict what he had said. The miners of Virden, he insisted, were in the right and their cause was a just one. For the negroes to take their places, he said, would rob them of places they were entitled to and this he did not believe the Alabama men wanted to do. More than that he said that for the negroes to do so would mean the demoralization of the local business throughout Illinois and would result in a general cut of wages and hardship on every miner in the State.
President Hunter said that if any of the miners doubted what he said, he would refer them to the Governor of Illinois. It was evident that the Alabama men had heard of the Governor’s friendship for the negro soldiers of Illinois, for the mention of his name was received with approval. If you will go with me,” he said, “I will take you to Governor John R. Tanner. He is a man you can rely on. He will tell you the exact condition of affairs at Virden. He is a fair man and you can believe what he tells you. If he says that I have not told you the truth, then I will have nothing more to say.”
At Mr. Hunter’s suggestion, a vote was taken by the negroes on the question of going to see the governor. Every man was in favor of the proposition and so a procession was formed with Hunter at its head. Directed by the labor leader, the crowd marched Madison street to Fifth street, and then south to the Governor’s mansion. Many of them had bundles and they presented a novel appearance as they marched into the grounds of the executive mansion and lined up in front of the north entrance.
GOVERNOR NOT AT HOME
President Hunter acted as spokesman and informed the surprised inmates of the mansion of the purpose of the visit. Governor Tanner was not at home and Colonel Tanner appeared in his stead. He asked Mr. Hunter to notify the crowd of the Governor’s absence, but the President insisted that he talk to the Negroes. “They might not believe me,” he said, “and they will be better satisfied if you explain the situation to them.”
Then Colonel Tanner addressed the men. “Gentlemen,” he said, “President Hunter, of the United Mine Workers of Illinois, has informed me that you have called here for the purpose of seeing the Governor and having him make a talk to you about the condition of affairs at Virden. I regret very much that he is not here and I am not able to say when he will return. I can only say under the circumstances that if you will follow the instructions of Mr. Hunter you will be taken care of properly while you are here.”
After briefly thanking them for the visit, Colonel Tanner turned into the mansion and the miners decided to follow Hunter. He asked them to fall in line again and this they did the women leading. “I always like to see ladies in the lead,” said the gallant old Scot, and with a polite bow he urged the women to come forward and occupy the place of honor. Then the word was given and the strange procession started on its way to Allen’s Hall, the head-quarters of the United Mine Workers.
The march from the mansion was from the west entrance to Capitol Avenue, east to Seventh Street and North to the hall at Seventh and Washington streets. A large crowd had congregated by this time and it was augmented by people returning from church, so that several hundred people were following the negroes when they went up Seventh street. There was some cheering as the men and women trudged along the street, but most of the crowd appeared to be actuated by idle curiosity and there was little demonstration.
HUNTER WAS ELATED
President Hunter was in high spirits when he got the negroes into the hall, and he proceeded to make them a speech. He said that the men were now to decide whether they would stand by him or by Operator Lukens of the Virden mine. “We will stand by de ole man,” shouted one enthusiast and Hunter replied, “Well, we will take a vote; all who are in favor of the union will stand.”
Instantly a hundred men were on their feet and then the president, as a matter of form, asked those who favored the operator to stand. One man arose, but there was a howl of disapproval from his companions and he subsided. He explained that he did not understand and supposed he was voting in favor of deserting Lukins.
After this several speeches were made by representatives of the local sub-districts, all of the speakers urging the Alabama men to stand by the union. Then lunch was served. It consisted of crackers and cakes and a half-barrel of beer. Later a more substantial meal was served. It consisted of beef, bread and butter and vegetables, together with coffee. President Hunter gave orders that the miners be given all they wanted to eat and said the union would stand good for the cost.
There was one sick man among the negroes, Doc. Allen, of Birmingham, and Hunter ordered that he be taken to St. John’s hospital and cared for. Allen is suffering with malarial fever and is a very sick man. He was slightly ill when he left Birmingham and he suffered with headaches all the way to Springfield. He made the march to the Governor’s mansion, but after he reached the hall became faint. It is believed that others of the party will become ill after the excitement of their present position wears off.
The miners are in bad shape as regards clothing. Evidently they have had little work at home, although most of them say they left positions to come to Virden, and they are entirely without funds. Altogether they are a sorry looking lot. The women, as well as the men, are poorly clad but most of them appeared to be in good spirits.
THEY WERE INDIGNANT
After the negroes had listened to the speeches of the officers of the miners’ union and had been assured that they would be protected and cared for, they began to feel that they had been the victims of misplaced confidence and many of them were loud in their denunciations of the men who had prevailed upon them to leave their homes and come here. They said the agent for the company was in Birmingham several days and distributed circulars that read as follows:
“WANTED—One hundred and seventy-five good colored miners for Virden, Illinois. Pay in full every two weeks, 30 cents per ton, run of mines. Miners can make from $2.75 to $4.00 per day. Want twenty skilled drivers, pay $1.75 per day; fifteen good top men and outside laborers, $1.35 per day; fifteen good timber men, $1.75 per day; two first-class blacksmiths, $2.25 per day; thirty-five experienced miners with families; eight first-class machine runners, $2.00 per day; ten boys for trappers, 75 cents per day. Coal is seven to eight feet thick. Twenty cagers, $1.75 per day; no charge for blacksmith; no commissions; want nothing but first class miners; all coal weighed on top. Bring your tools well tied up if you wish to carry them. Will leave Birmingham Thursday night at 8 o’clock, September 22. Transportation will be furnished and ample time given you to pay the same. For information call at 1905 Third avenue.”
The negroes say that they were told before they left home that they would be paid 30 cents a ton but when they got on the train they heard they would get twenty cents per ton. They claim that they were informed also that the strike had been ended for the past six months and that the men had gone to war. They were also told that there was no danger after they had been landed at the coal mine and that they could go to work at once. One young negro, with scarcely enough clothes on to cover him said:
“This is pretty tough. I wanted to come here and work right off as I only got 90 cents a day for driving. Now I have lost my job at home and don’t know what to do. I guess all I can do is stick with the rest of the crowd. These miners here are all right and I wish I belonged to the union.”
WILL BE SENT HOME
All the negroes will be sent back to Birmingham as soon as arrangements can be made for their transportation. This was decided upon by the leaders of the miners’ union last night. The negroes are all anxious to get back home and when they signified their willingness to return without going to work, the union took steps to provide for their transportation. While the miners will send them home, they will also endeavor to have Mr. Lukins pay for their transportation.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, September 29, 1898.
21. LIVE WIRES PLACED AROUND THE STOCKADE KEEP MEN IN PRISON
Thursday morning at 8 o’clock one of the colored men, Jim Walker of the group who left Birmingham a short time ago for Pana, Ill., walked into the ADVOCATE office. He confessed that he was a prodigal but was willing to return without having a drop of blood spilt on his account.
Jim gives a blood-curdling account of his experiences in the coal regions of the . . . Virden coal company which had deceived him. Most all the miners had gone to the war. It looked to him as if all the soldiers were stockaded at Pana when he got there. Company tried to switch them off into a stock yard but were thwarted in their purpose by the miners. Alabama Negroes were promised 30 cents per ton to go to Pana but when they got there were told that they were to receive only 20 cents per ton.
Jim Walker says large stock yards are built and once a negro gets in there he belongs to the company. Several guards are on duty continuously and wires heavily charged with electricity are run all around the stocks so as to make escape impossible. He who attempts to escape is a dead man.
Jim says the miners are orderly and as clever a lot of men as he ever met. Compliments President Hunter very highly. Says when the negroes learned the truth, that the miners were trying to force the company to carry out the contract with them, the Alabama delegation joined the strikers and refused to work.
As soon as the company learned of the action of the negroes, says Jim, it sent a representative to the sheriff to prefer charges against President Hunter of intimidation. A deputy sheriff was sent to the meeting hall of the miners, where a conference with the negroes was being held, and notified President Hunter of the charges that had been preferred against him. In presence of the deputy sheriff and the men whom it was claimed by the company had been intimidated by the miners of Pana, President Hunter arose and asked the imported also, if they had come to that hall of their own free will and accord or if they had been forced to come there by threats of miners, force or other undue influence of Mr. Hunter or his agent or agents. The negroes, to a man, declared that the company had allured them to Pana by misrepresentations and for that reason, they had refused to work, and that they were in the miners’ hall because they were in sympathy with them.
Whereupon the deputy sheriff declared that the intimidation was on the other side and left the hall.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, Oct. 1, 1898.
22. SLOW TO GO AWAY AGAIN
The negroes who went to Pana with the exception of one or two who remained to accept work at other callings, have returned to their homes and will be slow to go away again until they know definitely what they are doing. They say there are a few negroes in the stocks who will stay there the balance of their days unless they are rescued by process of law by outside friends.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, October 1, 1898.
23. TIMELY ADDRESS
R. L. RUFFIN OF BIRMINGHAM TO THE COLORED MINERS AND MINE LABORERS OF THE
BIRMINGHAM DISTRICT—SAYS NEGROES SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM PANA, ILL.
Following address was received last week too late for publication:
To the Colored Miners and Mine Laborers of the Birmingham District: Dear Sirs: In reply to the several communications received by me, both written and personal, with regard to the recent exportation of miners and mine laborers from this section and their location in Pana, Illinois, and other sections of the country. I think it a very unwise thing to do; and it is not in keeping with the interest of labor and common sense. Besides, it is an infringement upon the rights of labor and a trespass in the premises of a brother workman with no permanent advantage to the colored miner.
I have made some close examinations into the matter and find the following facts and conditions:
The miners at Pana, Ill., are asking for a legitimate and equitable scale price for digging coal which should be given them. This district had the good fortune to settle at the last annual meeting of operators and miners in this city and we feel justly proud for men who were instrumental in bringing about a peaceful adjustment of a very grave question peculiar to their interest. The same presents itself to their brother workmen in Illinois. To be the means of depriving them of actual necessities is within itself a crime of treason against labor and at the same time disqualifies them from any just consideration whatever as a friend of the daily toilers or supporters of law and order and good government. . . .
We have noticed recently a petition to the governor of Illinois published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept., signed by R. H. Pringleton, J. T. Shaw, and T. P. Haraldson, in which they pray the governor of Illinois for protection and sight many reasons for the same.
With reference to the above we wish to state that the petitioners with the exception of T. P. Haraldson, are very familiar in Jefferson county, Ala. Neither of them ever dug coal or are in any way connected with any labor interests. Neither did they identify themselves with any regular occupied class of labor in this section and have been residents here for fifteen years and we do not believe either of them today have mined a single ton of coal since they found it to advantage to go to Pana. Mr. Haraldson is familiar on immigration topics of negro labor and needs no comment.
J. T. Shaw and R. H. Pringleton are plausible talkers and were carried there by Haraldson to be used as an instrument to persuade the colored miners from this section.
The negro should not intermingle to break down wages but should stay away from Pana and other sections where he is not wanted until a strike and will not be equally retained after the strike is settled. He should act as an example of manhood and not one of a scullion, for if anybody needs more money for his labor it is the negro.
Hoping this will suffice, I remain, respectfully,
R. L. Ruffin
Birmingham Labor Advocate, October 8, 1898.
24. DESERTED BY THEIR EMPLOYERS
The two carloads of negroes from Gilchrist who were held in the yards here two days last week were deserted by their employers and left without food or money. All the victims had was a few crackers. The railroad company finally hauled the negroes back to Mercer county and dumped them off at Aledo. These negroes were imported from the south to take the place of strikers. Now they are out of a job, broke, and the Mercer county taxpayers can care for them, and of course they will like this arrangement. As for the employer, who by means of a bogus contract evades the responsibility of caring for the dependent negroes and their families, no one is concerned. He was ‘running his own business,’ which, as many assert, is not the business of the public.
Galesburg (Illinois) Labor News, October 8, 1898.
25. ON THE BANKS OF THE RAILROAD
(To the tune of “On the Banks of the Wabash.”)
Away down in our homes in Alabama,
Us coons we were contented to stay.
’Till Mr. Lukens come and told us what he would give us
If we would come with him to Virden far away.
When we arrived in Virden Sunday morning
We found that things were not what Lukens say,
The miners were all lined up along the railroad
The moon is shining brightly along the railroad,
And the miners are situated there to stay.
The candle lights are gleaming in the stockade;
Mr. Lukens thinks he’s having things his way.
He told us the miners were all in Cuba,
And there wasn’t only eight men there to stay;
He didn’t tell us what a pen he’d put us into,
When he got us down to Virden far away.
Then good-by to Mr. Lukens, we are bound for Alabama there to stay;
If Mr. Lukens ever comes to Alabama
We will show him what us coons will do that day.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 13, 1898.
26. AFFAIRS AT VIRDEN AND PANA
In the absence of direct information and depending for our news from Virden and Pana upon the reports as contained in the dispatches to the “dailies,” we can see no material change in the situation at the above places from that reported last week. It appears it’s a stand off between the miners and operators and so long as that condition remains the mine workers must be regarded as at least holding their own, if not actually gaining an advantage. We believe that the action recently taken by the Alabama miners’ division of the Afro-American Labor and Protective Association, will be productive of much good, for the reason that the colored men who are being duped and deceived into going to Virden and Pana and else-where by slick-tongued white scoundrels who pose as labor employing agents, and too often by fraud, deception and misrepresentation, induce the colored men to leave their sure employment and homes, to go to places where the representation made to them partakes largely of the character of Utopia, but, which when they arrive there more resembles in actual experiences “Hades,” than anything they formerly had seen or heard of, for this reason, as before said, we believe that the action of the African Industrial and Protective League will do much good in restraining the colored people from going to places where their presence and their labor is only wanted for the purpose of enabling unjust and unscrupulous employers to reduce wages and destroy conditions of employment at the points to which they desire them to emigrate, or be imported to.
President Fairley, of the Alabama miners, sends us the following account of and the whereas and resolutions passed at a recent meeting of the league before referred to:
“At a meeting of the executive committee of the Coal Miners’ Division of the Afro-American Labor and Protective Association was held last night at Jackson Hall, Birmingham.
“It was called for the purpose of taking action in the matter of colored miners going from this district to Pana, Ill., to replace striking miners.
“The committee was called to order by R. L. Ruffin, President of the association, who made a full statement of present conditions at Pana. He dwelt upon the perilous situation in which the colored miners had placed themselves up there. He was surprised that any colored miner had been beguiled into going to Pana. He urged that immediate steps be taken to discourage the movement. The association should show to the world that the negro is not the enemy but the friend of labor.
“A committee on resolutions, consisting of Brooks, Mayfield, Swinney, Hutchinson, Alexander, Thomas, Starks and McCray, was appointed.
“Pending its report speeches were made by several of the committeemen.
“The committee submitted the following resolutions:
“Whereas, We believe such demands are just and realize that a reduction in wages at Pana means to this district a reduction of wages or the shut down of our mills, furnaces, mines, etc; and,
“Whereas, A large number of colored miners are being ignorantly carried to take the places of the so-called striking miners; therefore, be it
“Resolved, That we deplore the conditions now prevailing at Pana, and that we condemn the action of the colored miners in going to Pana, remaining at Pana or participating in any manner to aid the operators in carrying out their tyrannical designs against labor.
“Resolved, That we use every effort to intercept the movement of negro miners from this section to Pana, and that we join our efforts and arguments with J. M. Hunter, W. R. Fairley and others to relieve Pana mines of all colored laborers carried there and retained there by reason of the strike.
“Resolved, That R. L. Ruffin, President of the Afro-American Labor and Protective Association, is hereby authorized and requested to confer with all labor leaders and friends of labor as to the carrying out of this plan; that a copy of these resolutions be sent to Presidents J. M. Hunter and W. R. Fairley and others, and that a conference be sought with President Hunter at the earliest possible date.”
From the above it will be seen that the negro miners are in earnest in their efforts to prevent the further importation of colored men from Alabama to Illinois, and we opine that an organized body of that kind will be very influential in establishing their desires. In the meantime let the whites stand firm as a stone wall. Scabbing is just as vicious, deplorable and damnable when practiced by a white as it is when done by a colored man. What is villainy in the one cannot and is not commendable in the other. Scabbing when done by anyone should be unmercifully condemned, and the scab of any color, creed or nationality execrated by his fellow men. The crimes of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed his Master, and of Benedict Arnold, who betrayed his countrymen, are not more execrable and do not deserve more condemnation and punishment than does that of the scab, who, while their fellows are striving by a suspension of work, to secure greater pay and better conditions of employment, come in and like thieves in the night, rob them of employment and in order to do so, must live like cattle in pens or prisoners in a jail, inside of a stockade, while they are doing the dirty work of an employer, who in nine cases out of ten, discharges them after they have served his purpose.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 13, 1898.
27. THE SITUATION
At Pana, Illinois and Washington As Told in the Daily Papers
WE GIVE THE REPORTS WITHOUT KNOWING AS TO THEIR ACCURACY, BUT REPRODUCE THEM FOR THE BENEFIT OF MINE WORKERS WHO DEPEND ON THE JOURNAL FOR THEIR NEWS FROM THE POINTS MENTIONED
PANA, Ill., Sept. 28—. Striking union coal miners and imported colored men engaged in a pitched battle in the main street of this city tonight. Several hurried shots were exchanged.
No one was wounded in the ranks of the union men. The colored men were driven from the city to the stockades carrying with them, it is believed, a number of wounded comrades. One of the colored men is reported to have died soon after reaching the stockade. Desultory firing continues at midnight in the vicinity of the stockades. The trouble which has been narrowly averted between the striking coal miners of this city and colored men imported from the south to work the mines, was precipitated at 8:30 o’clock this evening.
As usual the colored men, from the stockades at the Springside and Penwell mines, were making demonstrations on Second and Locust streets, the principal business streets of the city, by parading heavily armed.
The union miners were in session at their hall where a Chicago labor leader was speaking. One of the negroes appeared at the foot of the miners hall and engaged in a quarrel with a union white miner. Officer Samuel Smith immediately arrested the black, and was escorting him to jail, when he was closed in on by a posse of negroes, who, pointing their revolvers at Smith, threatened to kill him if he did not release his prisoner. Smith continued on his way to jail with his prisoner. Union miners and others meanwhile went to Smith’s assistance, and the negroes were driven back. Smith took the prisoner to Operator George V. Penwell’s store and upon Penwell’s standing for the negro’s fine he was released.
Before Smith had released his prisoner, however, the negro posse had been recruited and assumed a threatening attitude toward the white men. David McGavic, leader of the union miners, clubbed one of the blacks over the head with a revolver, it is said. For half a block McGavic forced the negroes to retreat and several shots were fired.
The negroes retreated double quick to their stockades, secured rifles, returned to Locust street, and challenged the miners for a fight, the opposing forces lined up on the street, the negroes with Winchesters, and the miners with shotguns, rifles, and revolvers. Neighboring business houses were immediately closed, lights extinguished, and citizens generally sought their homes. At the word of command firing commenced. The first volley it is said, came from the negroes. The union men responded with a volley, and heavy firing continued for five minutes. Much of the shooting was wild and entirely harmless to the white men, who finally drove their enemies in full retreat to the stockades. The negroes are thought to have carried several men with them, and one is reported dead.
A second encounter between white and blacks occurred twenty minutes after the first battle near the Penwell stockade, but the firing was scattered, and it is not believed to have been a serious engagement. The miners had full charge of the business streets at midnight. Desultory rifle reports could be heard from the Penwell and Springside stockades, but no person would venture into the streets near the mines, and very few are loitering about the business or residence sections. The union miners say the battle of tonight is only a foretaste of what may be expected to follow. They blame Operator Penwell for the trouble, and say they will tomorrow swear out warrants charging him with inciting tonight’s riot.
Governor Tanner will be asked to send militia to protect property in this city and to remove the negroes.
TOWER HILL, Ill., Sept. 30.—Several hundred striking union miners from Pana City held up a special Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern train, conveying 50 Washington (Ind.) negro miners to Pana to take the place of the union miners. The negroes were taken from the cars and compelled to walk back to Tower Hill, where they were locked in the depot until 10 o’clock tonight. At that hour the negroes were placed on board an east-bound train and taken back to Indiana at the expense of the miner’s union.
The holdup of the train was perfectly executed and was a bold stroke on the part of the union miners. Engineer George Worsham, of Pana, was in charge of the train, and on being flagged brought the train to a stop. The miners were all armed and masked. The engine was uncoupled from the coaches and run a short distance, the engineraen being kept under guard of guns. Masked men then entered the front doors of train while their associates surrounded the coaches. The negroes were then marched out back doors and walked down the track to Tower Hill. News of the capture of the blacks having reached Sheriff Coburn at Pana he sent an armed posse of deputies, including negroes from Springside camp, toward this town to intercept the miners on their return. Sheriff Coburn’s force had not arrived at a late hour. In case they fail to appear the miners will remain here overnight and take a roundabout way home. It is believed that a battle will be precipitated if the Coburn forces show up in this vicinity. The sheriff of this county refused to interfere with the union men.
PANA, Ill., Sept. 30.—Last night was a terrorizing one for the people of Pana. Two-thirds of the residences were unoccupied. Each of the houses occupied contained a group of families. In some cases all the residents of an entire block spent the dark hours in one house, armed, terrorized and awaiting attacks expected to be made on their homes by the negroes imported from Alabama.
All night the striking miners, re-enforced by brother union miners from other towns, armed with shotguns and rifles, paraded the streets, and in some cases lay in ambush on housetops and in alleys awaiting the coming of the blacks from Springside and Penwell stockades, who had announced an intention to march into the city and drive out the whites. But the deputy sheriffs were successful in keeping the colored men under control and within the stockades. Many shots were fired in the vicinity of the mines throughout the night but with what results could not be ascertained. Sheriff Coburn in wiring for troops last evening, reported one black killed in Wednesday’s riot and several wounded.
Mayor Penwell, son of Operator Penwell, spent last night inside the stockades. He said he was afraid of being mobbed by the miners, and that for fear of mobs his father and mother have left the city.
PANA, Ill., Sept. 30.—Light battery B, of Galesburg, arrived on a special train from Springfield this afternoon. The battery consists of two Gatling guns and 68 men with side arms and Springfield rifles, in charge of Captain Craig. Two camps of the Sons of Veterans from Aurora and Elgin, in command of Colonel Hamilton, arrived this evening. They were equipped with guns at Springfield and mustered in as national guards.
Governor Tanner’s instructions to the troops before their departure from Springfield were to arrest all persons carrying arms and hold such persons until further orders; protect citizens and their property, maintain order, but lend no assistance to operators in operating their mines with imported labor.
The militia are in full charge of the city tonight, and are parading the business streets. The utmost quiet prevails.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Sept. 30.—In answer to queries regarding a report that he had refused to send 300 rifles to the sheriff at Pana, Governor Tanner today said:
“Yesterday I received an urgent telegram from the sheriff asking for troops and saying he had done everything to protect life and property, but the conditions had reached a point where he was unable to cope with the difficulty any longer, and that a serious riot was imminent unless he received state aid by or before Friday evening. After several telephone conversations with him I became so impressed with the importance and needs of the situation that I ordered the Galesburg battery and two companies of the Sons of Veterans regiment to report at Pana for riot duty by the first train. I directed Captain Craig in command to arrest and disarm all persons until further orders, to protect citizens and their property, and to maintain order, but not to allow any portion of his command to aid mine owners in operating their mines with imported scab labor.
“This habit of importing labor into our state to take the places of our citizens has to stop if I have the power to abate it.”
WASHINGTON, Ind., Sept. 30.—A crowd of about 30 colored miners who were brought here from Kentucky last fall to take the places of the striking miners left for Pana, Ill., this morning to aid the colored men in the threatened riot with strikers. All who left here were armed, some with revolvers and shotguns, others with Winchester rifles.
PANA, Ill., Oct. 1.—Owing to the heavy rain, which has been incessant since the state troops went into camp here, the troops left the camp this afternoon and are now quartered in the Haywood opera house, where they will remain during their stay here. Captain Craig has given out orders for the closing of all saloons until further notice. Lieutenant F. C. Henry, of Battery B., said today: “We will put on a provost guard of fifty men this evening, which will be continued indefinitely. I will have charge of the guard. We will make a searching investigation as to location of the state’s guns, which are said to be in the hands of the blacks, placed there by the sheriff, and we will take them in charge.”
Six members of Battery B., who for some cause failed to make the train at Galesburg Thursday night, were arrested and brought here to camp today by a deputy sheriff.
The striking union miners returned here today from Tower Hill, after their exciting experiences in forcibly turning back the Indiana negroes imported by the mine operators to break the coal strike here. The miners guns were boxed up and smuggled into town in wagons filled with hay. Large crowds congregated on the streets of Pana, but they were orderly. Not a negro appeared in the city, and the quietness was only broken by the cheers accorded the soldiers as they marched through the streets. Last night Sheriff Coburn requested the militia commander, Captain Craig, to go to Tower Hill and arrest the union miners there who had captured the negroes and release the latter. Craig flatly refused to do so, saying he was here to protect the lives of citizens and property. He was not here for the purpose of obeying the sheriff’s instructions or orders. His orders were from Governor Tanner, and there would be no foolishness in the matter, either. The militia are patronizing only the union butchers, bakers and merchants.
WASHINGTON, Ind., Oct. 1.—Guarded by four white miners heavily armed, the crowd of negro non-union miners who left this city yesterday to work in the mines of Pana, Ill., where a big strike is on, returned this morning, having been intercepted on the way by strikers, who, at the point of Winchesters, compelled the colored men to return to Washington. They did not resist and none were injured.
WASHINGTON, Ind., Oct. 2.—The elements of war are very much in evidence in this city tonight, and a bloody battle between white and colored coal miners is expected before morning. At 10 o’clock tonight a crowd of armed whites corralled about 20 non-union colored miners and started with them toward the B. and O. S. W. yards, where the strikers intended to force the negroes to board a freight train and leave the city. Many of the blacks were armed, in fact, most of them have never been without arms since being brought here from Kentucky a year ago, and when within a few blocks of the yards some of them turned upon the whites and fired. The union miners quickly returned the fire, and eight shots were exchanged.
One negro was wounded, but owing to the intense excitement his name can not be learned. Chief of Police Thomas Call, anticipating a riot, turned in three alarms of fire in quick succession, and this brought hundreds of sleepy citizens from their beds. Officer Call organized a posse, and with the entire day and night police force started for the scene of battle. The crowd of strikers and crowd of imported laborers are now stationed upon Lower Main street, one block apart and hostilities are expected to be renewed at any moment. The negroes are the same that went to Pana, Ill., Thursday, and were escorted back to this city by armed Pana strikers Friday.
WASHINGTON, Ind., Oct. 3.—The sensational reports sent from this city last night that 150 miners from Pana, Ill., had come to this city and last night as sited in forcing the colored scab miners out of the county at the point of their pistols is wholly without foundation in fact.
The Washington striking miners met the scabs last night at 10 o’clock and peaceably invited them to leave the county, which several of them promised to do, and because a number of the striking miners congregated and went from house to house where the scabs were housed, the police force that has just been appointed took alarm and turned in the fire alarm. This aroused great excitement and brought many citizens on the streets, but no injury to property or person was committed. Although it was rumored last night that one of the colored scabs was beaten into a jelly. . . .
Today everything is quiet. Of course the entire sympathy of the city is with the striking miners. Those of the colored miners who left last night at the solicitation of the strikers have all returned today with the exception of two. They are determined to remain, and it is thought there will be no further trouble.
Midnight—Ed Myers, one of the negroes run out of town last night, has just returned. He was terribly beaten by the strikers, and is in a bad condition. An affidavit may be filed against a certain member of Company D. One Hundred and Fifty-ninth Indiana, who was alleged to have been in the mob, Mrs. Steve Young, a negress, says this soldier insulted her while he held a gun in her face. All is quiet at a late hour tonight.
“Martial law,” said Mr. Ewert, “can be proclaimed only by the governor of the state in public proclamation. No such proclamation has been issued, and martial law does not exist at Pana. It is a common error to suppose that every time troops are called out martial law exists. As a matter of fact the soldiers when they are called out as they have been at Pana, are subordinate to the civil authorities.”
WASHINGTON, Ind., Oct. 4.—Isaac Harris, a member of Company D, One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Indiana, was fined in a justice’s court this afternoon for entering the residence of Louis Young, one of the negro miners, on the night of the riot, and threatening to blow out the brains of Young’s wife, while a crowd of masked men were dragging her husband from the house.
After the trial, Captain Ross Smith ordered Harris taken to Camp Mount, Indianapolis, where he will be turned over to a military guard. No other arrests have yet occurred.
Sheriff Bowman tonight received a telegram from eight of the negroes who were driven from the city Sunday night. They are at Vincennes. They ask that the sheriff, with deputies, be at the depot to protect them when they return to Washington for their families and household effects. They promised to move away.
This afternoon the Enquirer correspondent started for the Cabel Company’s mine to interview Bank Boss C. C. Rowland, who, with about fifteen negroes, reside in shacks, surrounded by a stockade. When within 400 yards of the mine two men stepped out of the bushes and ordered him to halt. Each man was armed with a Winchester rifle. When the men learned that it was not an enemy that stood before them they lowered their rifles, and became more sociable.
They said they were looking for an attack and were fully prepared for it. Sentinels are stationed about the mine and it would be an impossibility for anyone to get near the mine without being discovered.
The families of some of the colored men who were driven from the city are in destitute circumstances and the township will soon be compelled to provide them with the necessities of life. All is quiet tonight.
PANA, Ill., October 4—The Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern carried from this city two coaches and cabooses which the trainmen were ordered to leave at Cowden, where the Clover Leaf Railroad crosses the B. and O. They concluded that the cars were to convey more Southern negroes to Pana to take the places of strikers in the coal mines here. A movement was inaugurated to intercept the train. Later it was reasoned that the sending of the coaches was a ruse of detectives to induce the miners to attempt another hold-up and to effect a capture of the entire crowd of unionists. The miners who were preparing to leave town were ordered not to do so by the union officials.
The sheriff of Shelby County arrived today and is working on the hold-up of last Friday. It is probable arrests will follow.
A number of shots were fired by deputies at the Pana Coal Company’s mine last night. The militia commander, Captain Craig, immediately dispatched fifty men to the mines. The soldiers went on a run. On the arrival the deputies said the mine had been attacked by strikers with stones. The militia divided in squads and searched the neighborhood, but no strikers were apprehended and no arms found.
Two labor agents left the city today for Alabama, being escorted to the train by an armed deputy sheriff. It is expected that the 500 negroes will arrive from Birmingham before the close of the week.
PANA, Ill., Oct. 3.—The military were actively engaged today disarming the deputies, negroes and any person found with arms, Captain Craig, commanding the militia, has notified all stores to sell no more firearms.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 6, 1898.
A Bloody Battle Over Train Load of Negroes
Governor Says Mine Owners Are Murderers
Tanner Would Indict Owners
These men—the president and officers of the company, who precipitated this riot by the bringing in of these imported laborers, are guilty of murder, and should be and will, I believe, be indicted by the Grand Jury of Macoupin County, and tried and convicted for this heinous crime, statement by Governor Tanner, of Illinois.
Mine President’s Statement
We shall take proper steps to secure redress against all who prompted, aided, abetted or participated in the riots of today, whether they are miners, officials, State officials or others. We shall determine for ourselves and others in this State just how far a Governor can annul and evade the duties placed upon him by the Constitution and statutes of this State.—PRESIDENT T. C. LOUCKS, of the Chicago Virden Coal Company.
Virden, Ill., Oct. 12—The climax in the mining troubles at this place came shortly after the noon hour today. The expected clash between the striking miners and armed guards on a special train bearing imported negro miners to the mine developed at that time, with very serious results. Several hundred shots were exchanged, with the result that nine men were killed, probably eighteen wounded, some of them fatally.
The Dead and Wounded
THE DEAD AT VIRDEN
Frank Hilyer, miner, Springfield
Joe Kutlin, miner, Mount Olive
Ed Greene, miner, Mount Olive
Ellis Smith, miner, Mount Olive
Abe Brennaman, miner, Girard
D. H. Kiely, Chicago & Alton detective, Chicago
A. W. Morgan, guardian stockade, Chicago
Thomas Preston, ex Lieutenant of police at Chicago, killed by militia
DEAD AT SPRINGFIELD
W. W. Carroll, deputy of train, Chicago
FATALLY WOUNDED, SPRINGFIELD
William H. Clarkson, deputy on train, Fort Leavenworth
Ervin Ryan, negro miner, from Alabama, through head
Six of the strikers were killed by the guards, while three of the guards, two on the train that conveyed them to the town and one within the stockade, lost their lives. One innocent man, a Chicago detective, who came here to guard the Chicago & Alton switches, was shot down by the first fire, and another man, who was mistaken for Manager Lukens, was shot and then stamped almost to death.
Shot by a Striker
Late tonight another death was added to the list when ex-Lieutenant Tom Preston, of the Chicago Police Force, who was acting as a guard at the stockade, was shot and killed by a striker just as the militia companies arrived. Preston was within the stockade and as the train bearing the troops pulled in he opened one of the big gates and stepped out. As he did so the sharp report of a revolver was heard. It was followed quickly by another shot and the ex-policeman fell, mortally wounded. He was carried within the stockade, where he died. The shots at first led to the belief that the soldiers had been fired upon and a skirmish line was formed to charge the miners congregated about the stockade, but the order was not given and the miners fell quietly back when the soldiers advanced.
The train then pulled down to the town and the troops were disembarked. While they lined up on the platform guards were sent in to bring up the striking miners and disarm them. There was no opposition by the miners, who one after another fell into line and held their hands high above their heads, while the soldiers went through their clothes. Adjutant General Reece is in charge here tonight, and the troops are acting with a promptness that is giving a reassurance this town has not felt since the arrival of the Alabama negroes at St. Louis was announced.
The crisis of today was not unexpected. The trouble became more and more aggravated every day this week, and the culmination is no surprise to those who have kept in touch with the miners and have known their temper. At 12:40 this afternoon a special train of five coaches bearing negro miners and armed guards, who kept watch from the platforms, made its appearance in the view of a large crowd assembled at the village station. The striking miners and their friends had been advised through telegrams from Carlinville and informed when the train was on the way and would arrive here about the time men would be in anticipation of it. Hundreds of people were assembled on the depot platform. The train went past the station at the rate of forty miles an hour.
GUARD FIRED FIRST SHOT
As it arrived opposite the station one of the armed guards from the platform of a car discharged his rifle presumably into the air. It did no damage, but it was the signal for a volley of shots from the remainder of the guards.
The exchange of shots suddenly grew into a fusillade, but the fatalities in this first skirmish were miraculously small. Robert Kiley, watchman for the Alton road, was shot through the head and fell forward on the depot platform. He died soon afterward.
The special train was whirled away toward the stockades which surround the mine property of the Chicago Virden Coal Company, and when that barricade was approached the speed was slackened, the purpose being to stop and land the negroes within the stockade under cover of the armed guards.
On the way between the station and the mine the miners who were stationed along the track sent volley after volley after the train and many shots took effect.
BATTLE AT THE STOCKADES
It was at the stockades, however, where the fiercest and most disastrous encounter of the day occurred. When the armed deputies within the wooden enclosure saw the train bearing down to the mine they emerged from within to assist the armed guards in protecting the negroes while the latter were being transferred from the train to the enclosure. Another battle with the miners was the result.
Across the railroad track in a field within easy gunshot distance a considerable body of striking miners was drawn up in order for deputy conflict. Upon seeing them the deputies, it is claimed, opened fire.
Hundreds of shots were exchanged, this time with serious results. It is the assertion of the miners who were in this attack that the most deadly fire from the coal company’s property came from the tower at the shaft. In the meantime, the force on the train decided that the conflict was growing entirely too hot, and instead of coming to a dead stop the throttle was pulled wide open and the train was hurried on to Springfield with whatever dead and wounded it had on board.
Shortly after the last battle the word went out that Mr. Lukens, the mine manager, had come from the stockades and was on his way to the company store. A large crowd of determined miners made an immediate rush on the store. Mr. Lukens was not there, but the manager, Frank Eyster, was in the building. Eyster retreated to the roof of the building. While in that exposed position a shot, alleged to be from the miners’ hall, near by, brought him down. Later he was taken from the building, and, once outside, was kicked and trampled upon until he sustained fatal injuries.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Oct. 12.—The train on which the negroes were brought to Virden, arrived in this city at 1:30 this afternoon.
The men injured consisted of six of the armed train guards and one negro. The other passengers escaped the balls by throwing themselves in aisles or under the seats.
In an interview with Governor Tanner this evening regarding the Virden riot he said:
“T. C. Louck, president, and Mr. Lukens, superintendent of the Virden Coal Company, at 12:30 today made good their threats to land a trainload of imported laborers from the South, and attempted to put them to work in their mines at the point of the bayonet and the muzzle of the Winchester, such laborers being drawn largely if not entirely from the criminal class, exconvicts who learned their trade while doing terms in the penitentiary of Alabama, after having been fully advised, and having full knowledge that the landing of such imported laborers, would precipitate a riot. I had wired them that if they brought these imported laborers they did so at their own peril, and under the circumstances would be morally responsible and criminally liable for anything that might happen.
THROWN FROM TRAIN BY GUARDS
John M. Hunter, president of the United Mine Workers of Illinois, was the victim of a brutal assault at the hands of two of the deputies on the train. He had boarded the train to ride north from this city, his object being to talk with some of the negroes and induce them not to go to Virden. He was struck and pushed from the train while it was in motion, and sustained severe injury. Tonight he swore out warrants for the men, charging them with assault with intent to kill. Mr. Hunter blames Operator York, of Chicago, for the attack, charging that he set the deputies on him. He was kicked in the mouth and stomach.
William Messer, one of the wounded detectives who was left here for medical attention, is authority for the statement that there were fifty-four guards on the train, and that thirty-eight of them are missing tonight. Where they are is unknown here, but it is believed some of them may have been pulled from the train near Virden, and that others watched for an opportune time and made good their escape from the striking miners of Virden.
Governor Tanner tonight wired the War Department asking if the Fifth Illinois Infantry could not be placed at his disposal for use at Virden. Colonel Culver, the commander of the Fifth, has tendered his services and those of the regiment to the Governor.
“Instantly on learning of the trouble I directed Adjutant General Reece to order Captain Craig, of the Galesburg battery, and one company of the Sons of Veterans’ regiment, now stationed at Pana, to proceed at once by the quickest route to the scene of the trouble.”
Undated newspaper clipping, A. F. of L. Archives, Incoming Correspondence.
29. PANA AND VIRDEN
Since the terrible affair of two weeks ago the quietness at those places has assumed the proverbial graveyard quietness, a quietness that would never have been disturbed or broken had not the operators seen fit to break it by the importation of ex-convicts from Alabama. The locked-out men in Illinois are to be congratulated for their staying qualities. From April 1st to November is quite a stretch for men to stand a siege that were in very poor circumstances financially to start with. Their stamina, pluck and endurance is highly commendable to them and worthy of emulation by all miners. The manner in which the miners at work in Illinois are responding to the call for help is also highly creditable to them but then, Illinois miners have been fighters from away back, and have contributed thousands of dollars to the cause of boys in the same straits as are the Pana, Virden, Auburn, Green Ridge, Nilwood, Sandoval and other locked-out miners in the Sucker State. With such heroes as those, and the help they are receiving, we predict a continuance of the struggle until victory perches on their deserving banner.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, October 13, 1898.
30. THE VIRDEN RIOT
It is a common thing when riots take place, to appeal to the public to disregard all pleas tending to excuse or justify, and to insist, regardless of every other consideration, upon the immediate and unconditional suppression of disorder. But when we remember that in communities that are habitually peaceful, riots seldom take place unless provoked by some injustice which ought to be removed, we should ask ourselves whether, notwithstanding their importance, peace and order are after all the sole consideration at such a time. We should at any rate be disposed to consider the facts, rationally and calmly. Let us discuss, then, the Virden riot in that spirit.
Virden is a coal mining town in central Illinois. Most of the miners usually employed there live in or near the town, and many of them own their homes. These miners are dependent for a living, upon employment at digging coal in the mines of that region.
But the mines there, like mines everywhere, have been turned over to private owners, just as if they had been produced by the owners instead of having been given to mankind by nature. Consequently, the Virden miners cannot dig in the mines unless the mine owners hire them. A question necessarily arises, therefore, as to the amount of wages which the corporation can afford to give and the miners can afford to accept.
The same question having arisen from similar conditions in other parts of the coal mining region of Illinois, the mine owners and the mine workers of the state recently met in joint convention and agreed upon what they regarded as fair terms. But for peculiar local reasons these terms were not satisfactory to the Virden mine owners, who shut down their mines.
The local miners, whose homes and livelihood were now at stake, offered to compromise; but the mine owners ignored them. The miners then offered to submit the issue to the decision of the state board of arbitration. This proposition, also, the mine owners ignored. And when the board, upon its own motion, thereupon investigated the issue and advised as to the sum which, under all the circumstances, would be a fair rate of wages, the mine owners still refused to allow their mines to be worked. They enforced what is commonly known as a “lockout,” as distinguished from a “strike.”
Affairs having remained in this state for some time, the mine owners sent agents into Alabama to engage gangs of negro miners to come into the Virden mines. These agents represented to the negroes that in consequence of the prosperity of the country, which had made the coal business active, and of the war which had drawn large numbers of white miners into the army, there was a brisk demand for miners at Virden.
The negroes, thus deceived, were brought to Virden by the car load, and when they arrived the local miners took up arms and threatened to prevent their landing. Meantime the mine owners had employed bodies of private detectives, organized and armed in military fashion, some of whom were placed upon the railroad trains to guard the negroes, and some at the mines to cover the landing.
The mine owners also called upon the mayor, the sheriff and the governor for assistance. The governor, who is a republican, refused assistance. He said that he would send troops to preserve the peace if necessary, but that he would not allow the troops to be used as a guard to facilitate the landing of the Alabama negroes.
This was the situation when, on the 12th of this month, a train load of negroes was brought into Virden. The riot or battle then ensued. Who fired first is not yet established; but the battle was between armed mine workers, and armed private detectives employed by the mine owners. Many men on both sides were killed and wounded.
As soon as he received word of the violent outbreak the governor threw troops into Virden, disarmed both sides, and enforced the peace; but he refused and has ever since continued to refuse, to allow the mine owners to unload the gangs of miners imported by them from other states.
These are all the material facts, in substance, that have as yet been disclosed.
The first question to which these facts give rise is the legality of the acts of the miners and of the position of the governor. But no one can positively answer that question until the courts decide. For we have fallen upon times when neither legislatures nor custom, but judges make our laws. Since a bare majority of the supreme court of the United States overruled the precedents of a century to nullify the popular income tax law, and other courts began to overrule the principle of trial by jury, by issuing injunctions in restraint of anticipated crime in labor cases, it has not been easy to know the law in a given case, in advance of the decision, without first knowing which side retains the judge who has the casting vote. Before a Tanner court, it is not improbable that the action of the miners and the governor’s position, in the Virden matter, would be approved as legal; but before a corporation court it is even more certain that it would be condemned.
In our own humble opinion the latter decision would be right. Legally, it was a breach of the peace for the miners, by arming and threatening violence, to prevent the landing of the negroes from Alabama, even though the negroes were poor dupes of the mine owners, and not citizens of one state seeking, in good faith, work in another state. And we should say that both in refusing to respond to the call of the sheriff with troops to preserve the peace, even though that involved protection to the coal mine owners in landing the gangs of negroes, and in preventing the landing of those negroes after he did send troops to Virden, the governor was without legal justification. Good reasons might be advanced, no doubt, for regarding Governor Tanner’s action as illegal. It might be said, for instance, that the coal mine owners were entitled by law to pursue their business in their own way in peace, and that if prevented by lawless force with which the local authorities could not cope, they were legally entitled to protection from the state. So it might be urged that the negroes had the legal right to come into the state as they did, and to be defended with all the power of the state against lawless force. It might be argued also that the railroad company had legal interests in the matter which it was the duty of the governor, which properly called upon to protect with every power at his command. But this question need not be pursued. It is doubtful if any lawyer, whatever his personal sympathies, would undertake to defend the disorder of the miners or the position of the governor, upon purely legal grounds.
But the governor and the miners are not the sole violators of law in connection with the Virden riot. The mine owners, too, are guilty.
The employment of private guards, as they were employed by the mine owners at Virden, is distinctly forbidden by the statutes of Illinois. These guards were no part of the police force, either of the county or of the state. They had not been called into service by any legal authority, and their acts of violence were as much outside the law as were those of the miners.
Whether this fact renders the guards and their employers liable for criminal homicide in connection with the loss of life in the riot, will depend upon the sentiment of the judges who have the last say in the case. It is to be hoped, however, that it will be found that they are liable. Peaceable people who are also sensitive to injustice, would like to see the law less discriminating in its assertions of majesty. If miners are to be punished for violating it, let mine owners, railroad managers, and those detective agencies that make a speciality of furnishing private troops in the teeth of the law—let them be punished, too. Much has happened in recent years to excuse if not to justify the feeling of workingmen that the law discriminates against them, and there would be no disputing it if the governor were censured and the miners punished for the Virden riots while the corporation managers were allowed to defy the law without question.
If we pass from the domain of mere legality to that of public morals, the whole force of the condemnation for the Virden riot must fall not upon the governor nor the miners, but upon the mine owners. Had they cherished the slightest interest in the public welfare, there would have been no riot. In this aspect of the question, it makes no difference whether they were strictly within the pale of their legal rights or not. Keeping out of the penitentiary is by no means the best test of good conduct.
They are in the attitude of the man who deliberately excites his adversary to anger, so as to have the law of him for some overt act that his passion may prompt. When they brought gangs of negroes into Virden from a distant part of the country, they did so for the purpose of angering men whose homes were at stake, and of provoking them to violence, in order that a necessity might be created for military interference. Peace, order, life, were nothing to them. They were ready and eager to disturb the peace, to overturn order, to sacrifice life, provided they could make the blame appear to rest upon some one else. All they cared for was the object they pursued, which was to reduce a community of American workingmen to a village of serfs. For no one believes that they expected these negroes to be satisfactory miners. At half the ordinary wages the negroes would have been dear workmen. They were imported to serve the temporary purpose of making the lockout successful. That accomplished, the negroes would have been thrown upon the town as paupers. Even if the mine owners had been strictly within the law, as in fact they were not, their conduct would have been as reprehensible as Shylock’s, who also was within the law.
Going still further back of the question of legality, we meet the most important issue of all. It is that of abstract justice. For laws are but a species of arbitrary force, except as they promote justice; and though all agree that order must be preserved, that is because we regard order as a necessary condition of justice. When its preservation is made a bulwark of injustice, it ceases to be order, and becomes anarchy in the very worst sense of that much abused word. There is no worse conception of anarchy than legalized injustice.
Yet it is impossible to consider the circumstances of the Virden riot, fully and candidly, without recognizing the truth, that in deep-seated legalized injustice it had its origin. Why did these men kill each other? From race or class antipathy? Not at all. The miners had no deadly race feeling against the negroes. Neither had they any deadly hostility to the armed guards who garrisoned the mining grounds. Nor had the negroes nor the guards any such feeling in return towards the miners. As men, they could all have met in good fellowship; and under almost any other circumstances they might have done so. Yet under these circumstances they killed one another. Why? For a chance to work. Think of it! They killed one another for a chance to bear the curse of Eden!
And are opportunities to work so scarce as that—so scarce as to set men at killing one another? By no means. Opportunities to work, unless something be done to diminish them, are limited only by the general desire to have work done and to give work in exchange for it. And that is limitless.
But something does diminish these opportunities. The one thing without which no work at all can be done is monopolized, and the owners shut workers out from it. That one thing is the land, upon which and out of which we live, and without which no one can live who does live.
The Virden miners needed access to the buried coal, they needed that and nothing more, in order to live. But the coal mine owners, in whom the law has vested authority to open or close the mines at their own will and in their own way, exercised their authority by locking the miners out. It was against this that the miners rebelled, and it was this that led on to the riot.
The miners felt that in justice they had a right to earn their living by working in those mines. Were they wrong? The burden is upon those who assert that they were. What better right in justice had the mine owners to close the mines than the miners to insist upon working them? What better right in justice had they than the miners to fix the terms upon which the mines should be opened? Did the title of the owners give them the better right? Trace their title back, even to the state or to the federal government, or to the French or English crown, and you get no nearer to anyone who had a just right to deed the earth away from those who are born in dependence upon using it for a living.
There is no just title to the Virden coal mines. Society itself is without the right in justice to control them, except by regulation to promote their use. It has no just right whatever to authorize them to be closed against use. Yet society did authorize them to be closed; and it was against that authorization that the miners rebelled. Who is most at fault for this rebellion? The miners themselves who fought for their natural right to earn a living, or society which empowers a favored few of its numbers to close God’s cellar door?
The Public Opinion (Chicago), October 5, 1898.
31. UNDER THE THUMB OF UNIONISM
The Colored American has had many complimentary things to say of Governors Tanner, of Illinois, and Mount, of Indiana, because of their generous treatment of the Negro volunteers of their respective states; but we cannot condone their failure to come to the relief of the Negro miners who are now being persecuted in those states by white strikers. Sympathy with the contentions of labor is out of place when the majesty of the law is assailed. It is the governor’s prerogative and imperative duty to preserve order, and to protect life and property at any cost. It is the Negro’s privilege to accept work from contractors anywhere and under any circumstances, if the wages are satisfactory, and the state must secure him against molestation in the performance of that labor. Members of unions who interfere are lawbreakers and enemies to the peace and dignity of the commonwealth, and should be dealt with as such. To stand aloof in awe of their political power is cowardly in the extreme, and deserving of nothing but contempt.
There is too much fear of these tyrannical labor trusts on the part of public officials, anyway, and the people’s welfare is bartered away year after year to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of these selfish cormorants. They bar the Negro from the benefits that unions are designed to confer, and then proceed to terrify capitalists and politicians into connivance with their indefensible schemes. Governors Tanner and Mount can best subserve the ends of justice, as well as their own political future by protecting these poor Negro miners in their efforts to earn an honest living, and rely upon the good sense and moral courage of the more intelligent and Christian workingmen to sustain them. To alienate the friendship of the faithful and patient Negro to court the illusory favor of a lot of kickers and strikers, the majority of whom are ignorant foreigners, is like saving at the spigot and wasting at the bunghole.
Colored American, October 8, 1898.
32. TANNER OF ILLINOIS
Governor Tanner of Illinois is another executive specimen of extreme color prejudice. In his zeal to cater to the striking miners and win favor with the laboring classes for political advantage he refuses to do his sworn duty in maintaining peace, order and tranquility in his state. He is a pusillanimous, villainous imbecile with a severe case of Negrophobia of the Ben Tillman type. He refers to Negroes who seek honest employment in his state, by which they can earn bread, as “ex-convicts and scalawags.” He is following step by step the path that led Altgeld to the political guillotine. And it is a consolation to know that as soon as the liberty loving citizens of Illinois get a whack at him his political head will be chopped off. He is a disgrace to the Republican party and they ought to see to it that he is immediately impeached. Such proceedings are certainly in order.
The American (Coffeyville, Kansas), October 15, 1898.
The situation in Illinois is very serious indeed. The miners have been on a strike for nearly six months, and they have been resorting to their usual tactics in trying to prevent others from taking their places. An unusual feature of the situation is the attitude of Governor Tanner, of that State. He apparently sympathizes with the lawless methods of the strikers.
For some time, the owners of the mines have been threatening to supply the places of the striking miners with colored men, and they have actually attempted to do so. This, of course, brought matters to a crisis, for the greatest injury that can be done to the average white striker of America is to fill his place with a colored workman.
As a result of the attempt to import colored laborers into the State, on Wednesday last, fourteen men were killed outright and twenty seriously wounded. Many of the wounded are expected to die of their wounds.
The state of anarchy which prevails, and the fearful loss of life, can and will be charged against the Governor of the State, for his words and attitude gave encouragement to the rioters, and led them to believe that the sympathies of the head of the State were enlisted on their side. This Republican Governor of a very important State has plainly intimated that colored laborers were not wanted in that State. This is the man who, a few weeks ago, received the plaudits of the entire country for enlisting a regiment of colored soldiers, and commissioning colored officers to command it. He was perfectly willing that the colored citizens of his State should risk their lives on the field of battle in defense of the nation, but was not willing that those same colored men should have an equal chance on the field of labor within the boundaries of his State. It is an inconsistency which has cost the shedding of blood, and has intensified the feeling between the races, particularly in that section, and has done the cause of labor irreparable injury. His objection is not against the importation of laborers into the State, but is against the importation of colored laborers. This attitude of the Governor should be indelibly written on the memory of every member of our race.
The cause of the striking miners may be a just one. They struck against a reduction of their pay. Every fair-minded man is in sympathy with them there, for we all know that labor does not receive its rightful compensation. But, have these men a right to prevent others from taking what they have refused? Have they a right to take the law in their own hands and destroy and shed blood at will? Has the Governor a right to encourage such a condition? Certainly not, and for the present lawless condition in Illinois, Governor Tanner will have to answer at the bar of public opinion. The Press of this city concludes an editorial on this subject in these words:
“There may be some sympathy felt for the deluded miners in this situation, but there will be none felt for Governor Tanner. His unwise course has misled the miners, resulted in bloodshed and murder, brought disgrace upon a great State and injured the cause of labor irreparably. Instead of upholding law and order he has encouraged riot and crime. Of this charge he will stand accused at the bar of public opinion.”
Every word of which is true.
The Christian Recorder, October 20, 1898.
34. GOVERNOR TANNER RESPONSIBLE
The murderous conflict which occurred last week at Virden, between the striking coal miners and the representatives of the companies, was not only lamentable in itself, but it was a bitter disgrace to the State of Illinois and to American civilization. Some eight or ten men were killed in this fight and twenty wounded, but these casualties, much to be regretted as they are, do not measure the injury upon civilization which such an affair inflicts. Responsibility for what has occurred must be apportioned in varying amounts, doubtless, among the contesting parties. We have not the full information which enables us to do this work of apportionment with accuracy, and therefore we shall go no further in that direction than facts, which are clearly in sight, warrant. One conclusion will be plain to every dispassionate man who reads the published accounts of the trouble and who reflects upon the utterances made concerning it by Governor Tanner. He must be held to largest responsibility for the insurrection and for the murders which accompanied it.
What are the essential facts of the case? There was dispute between the miners and the operators as to the amount of wages that the former would receive. This difference should have been settled by peaceful and reasonable conference between the contending parties. We believe it could have been so settled if both sides had fairly endeavored so to dispose of it. There is a right and a wrong in all such cases which can usually be made clear if only both sides are willing to “talk it over” face to face. But this mutual adjustment failing, from whatever cause, it became incumbent on Governor Tanner before the first bloody warning, which occurred at Pana the day before the Virden battle, to adopt prompt measures for keeping the peace.
Had Governor Tanner been a wise man, as well as a loyal maintainer of law and order—which latter he was bound to be,—he would personally, or through some judicious representative have gotten face to face with mine-owners and strikers preceding the first bloodshed, and have used his strongest influence to settle the difference between them. He would have said to them first: “Men, can you not settle your trouble amicably and reasonably? If not, I will suggest a board of fair-minded and responsible men, who will have the confidence of both sides, in whose hands you can place the matter, if both sides will agree to accept their decision.” If the miners and their employers had accepted so reasonable a proposition, well and good; that would end the trouble. If not, then it would have been the Governor’s plain duty to say: “Very well, my friends; I now stand toward you simply as the Governor of Illinois; I shall enforce the law with every power at my disposal. I shall suppress every unlawful act, by civil means, if possible; by the military, if it is necessary.” It is perfectly clear that the company had a full right to bring in laborers from the State, or outside it, to fill the places left vacant by the striking miners. Employees, under all ordinary circumstances, have a legal right to strike, and the converse is true of employers, that under all ordinary circumstances, they have a right to get other men to take the vacant places of strikers. That is a game at which both sides must be allowed to play fairly. It is a bad game at best, but at least it must be played fairly. For the strikers to use violence to prevent the work which they give up being taken by others is to use foul play. Such foul play has always been the greatest injury to the cause of organized labor. The cause is doomed which turns to violence for its advancement. But what did Governor Tanner do when the workmen at Virden asked red-handed murder into their ranks? He took a position and uttered words which ought to brand him as a demagogue of the most dangerous description, and make him a political impossibility for the future. On Sunday before the fight the Sheriff of Macoupin County telegraphed to Governor Tanner for troops to preserve the peace, as there was imminent danger of an encounter between the opposing forces, and he had not deputies enough at his command to maintain order. The Governor, upon learning that it was the intention to import laborers from the South, refused to comply with the sheriff’s request. Although he was obliged to acknowledge that the mine-operators had a legal right to follow this course, he refused to give them and the public the force necessary to preserve the peace. In a word, he refused to maintain law and order, which it was his plain official duty to do, because he was personally opposed to the importation of extra-State labor.
These are Governor Tanner’s words as they are reported:
“I told him that they were undesirable citizens; that as soon as they got a few dollars ahead they would quit their jobs, enter upon crime, and find places in our poor-houses, jails, and penitentiaries, and become a burden on society and the taxpayers of Illinois; that I was opposed to this system; that while it is true there is no law that would authorize the Governor to keep them out of the State, yet at the same time I did not feel it my duty as the Governor of Illinois to use the arms of the State to give protection to mine-operators in operating their mines with this class of citizens, thus depriving our own citizens of the opportunity to labor; that I was not much of a State-rights man, yet was elected by the people of Illinois, and am employed as their servant, to look after their interests; that I felt it my duty to give the citizens of our State a shade the best of it, and that I could not use the army to operate mines with imported labor.”
After considering the fact we have stated and reading the above, we believe the readers will concur with us in the opinion that the Governor of the State of Illinois signally failed of his duty at a critical juncture, and that he is morally responsible for the shame and misery of the Virden conflict, and for the lives of miners and of the employees of the operators lost in it.
City and State, October 20, 1898.
35. THE ILLINOIS RIOT
October 12 a conflict at Virden, Ill., between striking coal miners and a force of deputies and detectives who were guarding the property of the Chicago-Virden coal company, resulted in the death of nine miners and three deputies. Twenty were wounded. The immediate cause of the outbreak was the arrival of a trainload of Negroes who had been engaged to take the place of the strikers. Governor Tanner, replying to a notification by the mine-operators that their property was in danger and that they were entitled to protection, sent the following dispatch:
Under the present well-known conditions at Virden, if you bring in this imported labor you do so, according to your own messages, with the full knowledge that you will provoke riot and bloodshed. Therefore, you will be morally responsible, if not criminally liable, for what may happen. In my opinion the well matured sentiment of the people of Illinois is largely opposed to the pernicious system of importation of labor, and I am not wedded to any policy which is in opposition to the will of the people of Illinois. Hence, while I do not suppose that you care to listen to a suggestion from me, yet I venture to advise you to abandon the idea of importing labor to operate your mines.
Chicago Chronicle (Dem.)
The men, union or non-union, whom the coal company chooses to employ are entitled to full protection if their lives or limbs are menaced by persons whose places they take. They have been guilty of no crime; their necessities doubtless have compelled them to accept what wage a tariff-protected company chooses to give them. There ought not to be any confusion in the popular mind concerning the relative duties of the company and the state. The state must preserve order. But the state is under no obligation while preserving order to run the business of a private corporation. That business may be conducted as its responsible owners see fit as long as it is done without tumult or disorder or trepass upon the rights of any one else. The government’s sole duty in the premises is to preserve order.
Chicago Journal (Ind.)
When Governor Tanner tells the Virden mine-operators they will be morally, if not criminally, responsible for what may happen if they carry out their determination to import Alabama ex-convicts to work Illinois mines, he gives the operators the worst of the argument. If they don’t want the riot and bloodshed let Loucks and Lukens abandon their attempt to set up in Illinois the labor standards of the convict camps of Alabama and Georgia. They have no moral right to do that, no matter what their legal rights may be. Any official who, by legal means, opposes their attempt, is acting in the interests of the people of this state, and his services deserve recognition, even though he be John R. Tanner.
The president of the company informed the governor that he was acting entirely within the law, and demanded protection. This Governor Tanner refused, averring that the performance of his duty, in conformity with his oath of office, was opposed to “well matured sentiment of the people of Illinois.” Thus relieved from all legal restraint and restored by the action of the executive to a state of nature, both sides, previously conducting a peaceful struggle, flew to arms. Their forces met, and in the battle that ensued the losses were heavier than those of the regiment which bore the brunt of the much-discussed action of La Quasima. The events which led to this bloody affair lay the guilt for these deaths at the governor’s door. If there is no law in the state of Illinois to reach this arch-criminal and wholesale murderer, then God help the state of Illinois!
New York Journal of Commerce
It is the right of every owner of property in Illinois to employ on that property any person he chooses to, and both he and that person are entitled to ample protection by the state or its subordinate political divisions in carrying on any lawful occupation. If any citizen of Illinois refuses employment on terms offered and the employment is accepted by any person not a citizen of the state—a person who went there, as a great part of Governor Tanner’s constitutents went there to seek employment—the town, the county, and the state are under obligations to protect the man who offers the employment, the man who accepts the employment, and the property on which the work is done. In denying this, in refusing to restrain Illinois mobs from assaulting men who come from Tennessee or elsewhere to obtain work, Governor Tanner is undertaking to incite a new movement of secession.
Brooklyn Eagle (Ind. Dem.)
The state of Illinois must hang its head in shame at such an exhibition of demagogism on the part of its chief officer. When Governor Tanner declares that he will not protect the citizens of Illinois in their right to employ the citizens of Georgia he is false to his official oath. When he charges the coal company with bringing a blot upon the name of the state he is guilty of sophistry. If he had done his duty in the first place there would have been no bloodshed. The strikers may have had grievances against their employers, but they had no right to use force to prevent other men from working under conditions which they had found intolerable. It is a fatal error for strikers to conclude that violence can ever be effective in the settlement of disputes. The moment they fire a shot the whole organization of orderly society is arrayed against them. They can not win in any contest with the forces which insist on the peaceful conduct of business.
The Public Opinion (Chicago), October 20, 1898.
Tannerism, as it relates to the Illinois situation, is synonymous with cowardice and hypocrisy. As we have said before, a governor has no rightful alternative than to preserve order, and is in duty bound to protect the liberty, life and property of every person within the borders of his state. He cannot go into the character of the individuals making up the population, and has no power to judge of their qualifications or desirability as citizens, as long as they outwardly conform to the requirements of the law. Courts and juries must settle disputed points as to criminality or admissibility of persons into the state. Gov. Tanner, in his treatment of the colored miners who came up from Alabama to work for an honest livelihood, has truckled miserably to a set of tyrants, inoculated with the poisonous virus of trades unionism. In running after the uncertain labor vote, he alienates the faithful Negro who has stood by the party in season and out of season. Gov. Tanner has chosen to serve the mammon of deceit and demagogy. Let him take the consequences, and the insulted and outraged Negro will see to it that those consequences are bitter and far-reaching. If his head isn’t hit by the black voters every time it pops up with a bid for support, we greatly mistake the temper and manhood of the Afro-American electors of the state of Illinois, Tannerism is a fungous growth that should be extirpated at the earliest possible moment.
Colored American, November 5, 1898.
37. GOV. TANNER REVOLUTIONARY
We have entertained the kindliest feelings towards Governor Tanner of Illinois, and have been loath to believe that he would in any manner reflect upon or injure the people with which we are identified.
His action, however, in the matter of dealing with the colored laborers brought from the state of Alabama to take the place of the striking miners is a mystery to us, so far as a proper explanation of it is concerned.
While we regret that these colored men even went there, and had we been consulted, should have advised otherwise, still, we cannot see where the authority to keep them out rests.
In other words, he has undoubtedly transcended and set aside the law and from the tenor of his remarks, he is not in consultation with the Attorney-General of his state.
This comment was occasioned by remarks attributed to him, which are as brutal as they are cruel. He is quoted as saying at Madison, Ill., October 26, in a public speech:
“I reiterate that I will not tolerate this wholesale importation of foreigners into Illinois, and if I hear that a mob is to be brought into this State, such as was taken into Virden, I care not on what railroad it comes or for whom, I will meet it at the State line and shoot it to pieces with Gatling guns.”
This would be murder. The men, whom he would blow out of existence have committed no crime against the laws of the state of Illinois. He is quoted further:
“When the United States government found it necessary and deemed it just to forbid importation of foreign labor into this country, I felt that I was fully justified in the course I took at Virden. That trouble never would have occurred if the Negroes had not been brought here to take the place of white men.”
But the United States’ government acted under laws previously passed by the Congress of the United States.
The legislature of Illinois has enacted no such measure, and the people have granted no such authority to its Governor, What is the explanation? Well, the disregard of the Constitution by the officials of the southern states has caused a like action in the northern ones.
Richmond Planet, November 5, 1898.
38. NO DIFFERENCE
“When Governor Tanner spoke of the negroes who were brought from Alabama into Illinois to take the place of the striking white miners as ‘ex-convicts and the scum of creation,’ he was simply indulging in wild and foolish talk. It is possible that some of these colored men had been criminals; but, as far as we have been able to discover, the majority of them are hard working and law-abiding citizens. After they were hustled out of Illinois under guard, and kept for several days in jail at St. Louis, a Memphis contractor, who was acquainted with many of them and had already had them in his employment, came forward and offered them work at one dollar and a half a day, and they were glad to accept his proposition. It is a little remarkable that a Southern man should have rescued them from their pitiable condition.”—Christian Advocate. (Nashville, Tenn.)
The butchery of colored laborers in Illinois, and the massacre of colored voters in North Carolina only illustrate that race prejudice is not confined to either section, but that North or South bad white men will rob or murder to gratify their avarice or passion, and then try to escape public condemnation by criminating their helpless victims.
The Christian Recorder, December 1, 1898.
39. FIGHTING FOR A JOB
I regret the necessity of the Virden event, but I do rejoice that in America there are thousands and hundreds of thousands of men who would rather go to their graves fighting for a job and to save their families from starvation than to have an inferior intelligence forced upon them. Under our present monopolistic conditions, where three men are looking for one job, the man who can live on the least gets the job and the other two can tramp the streets. President Loucks says his men can earn $6 a day. I know that when I was labor commissioner under Gov. Altgeld the 38,000 miners in Illinois never averaged apiece $300 per year or $1 per day.
George Schilling, ex-State Commissioner of Labor in Illinois, quoted in The Literary Digest, December 24, 1898.
40. COLORED MEN
OF ALABAMA AND ELSEWHERE ADVISED NOT TO GO TO PANA TO TAKE THE PLACES OF UNION MINERS
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 19.—Editor Journal: Mr. Fred Dilcher, member of the national executive board of the U.M.W. of A., and William Fairley, president of the Alabama district of the same body, take a different view of their errand and do not hesitate to condemn it. A news reporter saw Mr. Dilcher this morning. Mr. Dilcher said the labor agents now in this district want to get colored men to take the places of striking coal miners at Pana, Ill. There has been a strike there ever since April 1, and the colored men wanted to go there as blacklegs. The colored men should not go there. In the first place they will find it very uncomfortable to go to work at Pana. There have already been rows at that place and they would not be entirely safe from personal collision with the men whose places they are to take. In the second place they are needed at home in Alabama where much better conditions exist than in Illinois and where they are practically assured steady work for some time to come. The Birmingham district needs all the labor it has and bids fair to give its labor a better return for its work than it can get elsewhere. In the third place the Alabama colored labor has not been informed of the true situation. He is told that he will get 25 cents a ton for run of mines coal; he is not told, however, that the regular scale in Illinois is 40 cents a ton for machine-mined run of mines coal. He is offered 15 cents less than the Illinois price, and that on a different basis. You can see that there is nothing very flattering in the offer. The Illinois agents are employed by a Chicago bureau which is engaged in placing blackleg labor wherever union labor is on a strike. There has been a strike at Pana since April 1st, and it would be foolish in the extreme for men to quit good jobs with steady work in Alabama for this uncertain employment. You can say in conclusion (and I am responsible for what I say) that I, as a member of the national executive board of the U.M.W. of A., thoroughly, cordially and heartily condemn any movement of Alabama labor to the strike district at Pana, Ill., as unwise, unprofitable and disloyal to all union labor. Mr. William Fairley, who was present when Mr. Dilcher spoke, said: “I heartily endorse every word Mr. Dilcher has said as truth and wisdom. He has stated the plain sober facts and we can easily show that he knows whereof he speaks.” It would be foolish in the extreme for Alabama miners to leave a section where there are practically no mine troubles for the uncertain and even personal danger, attending the taking of union strikers’ places in the North. I join Mr. Dilcher in the condemnation and disapproval of such movements.
Pratt City, Ala.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, December 29, 1898.
41. GOV. TANNER’S “NIGGERS”
Gov. Tanner’s offensive “niggers” at Pana, Ill., are now being shipped out of the state to take the places of strikers at some Indian territory coal mines. This will, presumably, end the labor troubles which disgraced the state last summer. Gov. Tanner then served notice that he would use guns to make Illinois too hot for black men guilty of coming into the state to earn their living by honest labor, and the victory seems to be his. But when it comes to taking up the white man’s burden where consolidated capital thinks it, sees a profit, Tanner is ready to show approval along with all the rest.
Springfield Republican, March 4, 1899.
42. ILLINOIS IN REBELLION
Gov. Tanner, however, through his own unauthorized acts placed the state of Illinois in rebellion against the federal constitution and laws. He undertook by force to deprive citizens of the United States of rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed by the federal power. He ventured to deny to them the constitutional right to enter the state of Illinois from other states and work at lawful labor for an honest living. And there was no power in Illinois at the moment to call him to account.
Obviously the president of the United States was not to expect that his attention would be called to the case by the Illinois state officials. But was he, therefore, to remain necessarily in constructive ignorance of the matter? Must he blind his official eyes to what his natural eyes have seen in the public prints, or in letters and appeals from private citizens? Was President Lincoln to remain in official ignorance of the outbreaks in South Carolina until some United States marshal chanced to inform him, or the state authorities themselves, who were in rebellion? Sworn faithfully to execute the laws, and instructed specifically by the federal statutes (see Revised Statutes, section 5299) to preserve the rights of citizens against insurrectionary attacks within the states, was Mr. McKinley to affect an ignorance of the Illinois situation and refuse to move until called upon by some particularly authorized person or agent of government?
Courts of justice, in the nature of the case, do not move themselves. But we are hardly to entertain with patience a suggestion that the executive power occupies a similar position in the state. It is evidently the opinion of our questioner that if, perchance, the Filipino rebels should manage to capture or kill the whole United States force at Manila, the president97 must remain in official ignorance of the matter and refuse to stir until some officer there rose from the dead or escaped from the enemy, to inform him, so that he could “constitutionally take cognizance of it.” We venture to say, however, that no matter how hard it might be for President McKinley to learn officially of rebellion against the rights of negroes in Illinois, led by a republican governor, he would find no difficulty in hearing of this colored suppression of white invaders in the Philippines, and would not be slow in asserting the power of the national government accordingly.
Springfield Republican, March 13, 1899.
43. WOMEN AMONG THE KILLED AND WOUNDED
A Negro Miner Said to be the Cause of the Affair
A deadly riot, the most serious disturbance that has occurred at Pana, Ill., since the union miners instigated a strike in April, 1898, was enacted yesterday, resulting in seven persons being shot to death and nine wounded, as follows:
FRANK COBURN, citizen
XAVIER LE COCO, Frenchman, union miner
Three negro men.
One negro woman
Unidentified negro, found last night near shaft No. 2 of Pana coal company.
Frank Landsworth, shot in head
Mrs. Henriet, shot in left arm
Will Kuhn, laundryman, shot in legs and hands
Cyrus Strickler, shot in back
Albert Vickers, shot in hand
George Kimball, farmer, of Rosemont, shot in arm
Henry Stevens, negro, shot in neck
Cass Proffitt, shot in foot
Carrie Felix, shot in breast
The situation quieted down at nightfall, and no more trouble was looked for. Adjt. Gen. Reece, Col. A. E. Culver and three companies of infantry arrived at 6 o’clock last evening on special trains, and perfect order was maintained throughout the town from that time on. The troops at Pana are Co. H, from Decatur, under Capt. Castle, Co. G. from Springfield, under First Lieut. Bauman, and Co. B from Taylorville, under Capt. B. Prish. The soldiers immediately began patroling the streets throughout the entire town. Miners stood about in groups talking, but there was no outward manifestation of excitement, although it was evident that great indignation existed, especially among the townspeople over the shooting of the citizens and women.
Henry Stevens, a negro miner, who has long been considered a leader among his associates, is declared to have been the direct cause of the riot. It is said he was also the leader of the riot that occurred in September. Stevens has long cherished hatred for Sheriff Downey, and has openly made threats that he would kill him on sight. He was on the street Monday with a revolver, saying he was looking for Sheriff Downey. He continued this yesterday, and Sheriff Downey came upon him on Locust street. The sheriff commanded Stevens to deliver the revolver, and told him he was under arrest for carrying concealed weapons. Stevens without a word instantly leveled his weapon and fired at the sheriff. The bullet went wild. The sheriff immediately opened fire on the negro. Deputy Sheriff Cheney hearing the shooting rushed to join Sheriff Downey, Stevens took to his heels and succeeded in gaining Penwell’s general store in Locust street, the principal thoroughfare, two blocks distant, and took his stand in the entrance. He hesitated there an instant and then stepped to the pavement, leveled his revolver down the street toward his approaching pursuer and fired.
Springfield Republican, April 11, 1899.
44. ANOTHER STAB
The following is what John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America, says concerning the employment of colored labor in the mine:
“Colored labor has been and is being used for the purpose of reducing wages of workingmen. They are imported from the South to the northern states and frequently are kept working under guards. To prevent this, laws should be enacted, making it a criminal offense for employers to induce laborers to leave their homes under misapprehensions. Colored laborers are used to work in the mines of Illinois more than in any other industry there.”
Coming from such a source, these statements and recommendations are no doubt designed and certainly calculated to arouse opposition to colored labor in the mines of the North. It is another instance of the employment of specious forms to mislead the people and grossly misrepresent the colored laborer. There is no truth whatever in the statement that the underlying motive on the part of the mine owners is to reduce wages. The reduction may follow as the result of the law of supply and demand, as where the supply of colored labor is greatly in excess of the demand and where organization has not been effected by which the fluctuation of wages may be prevented or regulated. But that this is the controlling motive of the employer is not true. The fact is that colored labor in the mines is becoming more desirable on account of the absence of colored labor agitators, walking delegates, mischievous demagogues and manplots, whose pleasure and pride it seems to be, to foment discord, encourage idleness, develop insubordination and array labor against capital. The colored miner is satisfied to take what he actually earns, because it is more than he can get in the South where colored labor is poorly paid and because it is but fair. Moreover he is no intruder, he does not seek to dislodge other classes of miners. He accepts the opportunities of labor at fair wages only after they have been ignored or lost by the whites who insist upon unreasonable demands. On more than one occasion his timely assistance in the mines has prevented a coal famine and thus insured moderate prices and home comfort to the masses. Nor are the wages the colored miner receive much less if any, than were received by the whites. The difference is so inconsiderable as not only to justify them in accepting the wages, but constitutes no reason for strikes. When a mine owner has colored labor, whether paid scheduled wages or somewhat less, he is satisfied that the output will be fair and the demands reasonable. The opposition to enact a law to prevent colored people from seeking or accepting labor wheresoever they see fit, is another indication of the spirit of ostracism and injustice on the part of white labor organizations. These labor organizations while professing to be advocating the cause of labor and ameliorating conditions, are seeking to restrict the labor rights of the colored people by a prostitution of the legislative power to the worst forms of prejudice, tyranny and injustice. They would have the law deny to the colored people the right of free locomotion and circumscribe his opportunities for self support. The proposition in itself is enough to show that labor organizations are more grinding and unreasonable than the power of monopoly which they are constantly opposing. It is needless to state that the Congress will be too just to pass so unjust and unconstitutional a measure; but the attempt to secure it indicates the unfriendly spirit of labor organizations toward colored people. Between the policy of refusing to employ colored labor in North Carolina and the proposed legislation to force it to remain there is to place the colored laborer between the upper and nether millstones. Even if it is desirable to displace the colored laborer, it is ungenerous and criminal to seek to do so through the law-making power. The colored people are denied labor by white organizations and he is justified in obtaining it under the best terms possible.
Washington Bee, April 22, 1899.
45. PANA STRIKE TO END
It is stated on good authority that the Pana, Ill., strike is at an end. At a conference held last week between the mine workers and mine owners, it was agreed to recognize the union and send the Negro miners back to Alabama. This strike, which has been on for the past thirteen months, has resulted in the loss of thirteen lives and cost the State of Illinois thousands of dollars in the maintenance of a military guard around the mines.
The Recorder (Indianapolis), May 7, 1899.
46. 600 NEGRO MINERS TURNED OUT
Late last week a trainload of negro miners going to take the places of some striking negro miners near Carterville, were fired upon and one woman was killed and several men wounded. While marching to the mine later on the negroes retaliated by setting fire to the village where the striking miners live. Troops, at last accounts, were being ordered to the scene. The battle at Pana, which has been going on with much shooting and a pretty constant reign of disorder and terror for a year, has ended finally in a victory for the strikers. The mines have been operated by negroes imported from the South, and protected by stockades against a regular siege from armed striking miners. The latter have been encouraged in their stand by Gov. Tanner, who, last year declared that he would stop the coming in of black labor if he had to use the guns of the militia to do it. After a long struggle the mine owners have now closed down their works. The black men thrown out of work are left penniless, and the governor of Illinois has undertaken to send them back to their homes at the expense of the public treasury. Some 600 negroes will thus be turned out of the state.
Springfield Republican, July 4, 1899.
47. EMPLOY NEGROES IN TIME OF PEACE TOO
The Pana, Ill., incident is closed at last. Whether its finale was fitting is a question that will be debated and settled by different standards of right and wrong and according to the respective methods employed in solving the race problem. But as The Freeman has said it thinks it can afford to say again, that the introduction of Negro workmen, for the express purpose of defeating white workmen of attaining their ends when a controversy arises between proprietors of mines, mills, shops, or what not and the white workmen is a dangerous expedient. It will not contribute anything to the relaxation of the high tensioned relations between the races. The workingmen of the country have settled convictions and they are in the vast majority. They, it is true, are not for the Negro workmen, but this hostility cannot be broken down by brute force. These men swear by the principles of their orders and in many instances they are right from their standpoint—self-preservation. It is but fair to assume that there will always be some kind of compact between workingmen. The iron heel of the bosses and multi-millionaired trusts may crowd down as swift and hard as avenging gods, but in some form they will endure.
If these bosses are sincere, let them employ Negro workmen in time of peace; put them in wherever they can and as many as they can until the face of black men excite no further curiosity.
Every Northern State could repeat the Pana, Ill., incident if they were so disposed. The thousands of shops in the North do not swing their doors inward to Negro workmen. There need be no expression of holy horror at this affair; it is in embryo elsewhere.
There are shops in Indianapolis that work night and day to keep pace with their orders. These men do double duty. They are all white men. Why not run in a few hundred starving Negroes who would be glad enough to work either night or day? Strain not at a gnat and swallow a camel.
The same reasons that actuate these institutions in our own midst actuated the miners of Pana, Ill., and the Governor of that state. But cannot the whole thing be changed? Can not these institutions slowly introduce Negro workmen even if it be in the lowly places? Or shall Negroes be compelled to set up their own institutions and patronize them? Is there any reason Negroes should not set up institutions and employ their own people? Is there not very great reason for doing something of the kind?
The Freeman (Indianapolis), July 8, 1899.
48. THE NEGROES MUST “GIT”
The edict from Kansas—“bleeding Kansas,”—is that there is no room or opening there for the negro who wants to work for his living. We have seen how the republican Governor of Illinois had negroes shot down because they wanted to work in the mines of that State. The following telegram shows how hospitable Kansas is to the “ward of the nation.”
IMPORTATION OF NEGROES STOPPED
Striking Miners Stop Operators From Bringing Them In—Say They Are Criminals
Pittsburg, Kan. June 18.—The striking union coal miners appear to have temporarily stopped the importation of southern negroes by the mine operators The hearing of the injunction cases brought by strikers to prevent the importation of miners from other States has been postponed until June 26. The miners set up that the negroes are criminals and affected with contagious disease and that their coming would be a menace to the health of the community and the good order of the public.
Booker Washington is right when he says that the negro has a better chance in the South than in any section of the Union. The South does not coddle him or deceive him like the sentimentalists of the North. It lets him work, give him employment, pays him for it, and supports public schools for his children. It says plainly and bluntly that he shall not govern, but does not prate hypocritically of his “rights and privileges” and refuse him admission to places where there is work on the ground that they “are criminals and affected with contagious diseases and that their coming would be a menace to the health of the community and the good order of the public.”
Washington Bee, July 8, 1899.
The trouble between the white and colored miners at Cardiff and Blossburg, Ala., resulted in the cold-blooded assassination of Edward Ellis, the leader of the colored men, and also the murder of Adam Samuels, June 27th.
It was found that both men had been shot in the back, and in the body of Ellis as many as twenty five buckshot had been fired.
The white men secreted themselves in a box car, and the shooting was done at close range. The colored men are armed and it is alleged that trouble is feared.
If colored men had shot down white men in this cowardly manner, all of the machinery of the state would have been put to work to apprehend the cowardly murderers.
Colored men have no protection whatever, and self-reliance must be their main dependence.
It it unfortunate indeed that these white men were not punished, not by the officers of the law, but by the colored miners themselves. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict that they were killed by unknown parties.
The only way now to make them known is to punish them at the time that they are committing crimes which disgrace modern civilization.
Richmond Planet, July 8, 1899.
50. NOT SETTLED
Pana, Ill., Situation Unchanged
Pana, Ill., July 10.—Editor Journal:
The situation remains unchanged in Pana since sending in our last communication, with the exception that the negro and white scabs have vacated the city and left the situation in control of roundheads and their sympathizers. The report has gained circulation that the Pana operators have settled and the mines are going to resume operations. Such is not the case. There has not been any overtures made toward a settlement as yet. It is useless for idle miners to come here in quest of work. The Pana mines will be unable to give all their old employees work immediately after resuming operation on account of entries being caved in and the mines being in bad condition generally.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 20, 1899.
51. A WARNING VOICE
ECHOES THROUGH THE IRON BARS AT CARTERVILLE PRISON
A Colored Union Miner Now Incarcerated in Williamson County Jail, Writes Upon
Ex-convict Labor and its Evil Effects
Carterville, Ill., July 12.—Editor Journal:
The seemingly irresponsible conflict existing between the U.M.W. of A. and the mine operators is a source of much needless suffering through the land. Why is it that two such potent elements so dependent upon each other for their mutual existence and support are continually at daggers’ points is a problem. It certainly arises from an extremely morbid condition of affairs that is wrong is evident from the conception of the fundamental principles existing between bodies naturally allied to each other by bonds of mutual interest. There is a tide in the affairs of man, which if taken at the flood, leads on to peace and harmony. We believe that tide today is recognition of the U.M.W. of A. and their principles as they exist for the better interests of the wage earner and justice to the mine operator. The miner is fully aware of the obstacles with which our pathway is strewn. We are also convinced of the fact that we are pitted against brains, money and prejudice. So from a financial standpoint in the interest of gigantic corporations that are daily filling the laborers’ homes with hunger and pain. The grim wolf of starvation is at the door of 90 per cent of every miner’s home in America today from the fact that capital and capitalists have banded together in reducing wages and the advancing of commissary articles so essential to the comforts of the laboring masses. Then the working man must do likewise, and sooner or later these principles will assert themselves, for heaven knows that the golden order of the U.M.W, of A. will be found advocating the cause of the miners, even until time on earth shall cease to be and silence holds sway over the universe. Ere this remote day the strong arms of the U.M.W. of A. will be felt from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, regardless of the consequences. It seems an utter impossibility to suppress the daily importation of ex-convicts and criminal labor into the fair State of Illinois. The class of labor mentioned is criminal beyond question. These facts were ascertained at Pana and Carter ville, Ill. Even among their associates murder and bloodshed run riot. In May 1898 these people came to Carterville. They had been in Carterville only four months until Will Prentice had killed Chas. Miller, Alex Boy shot James Shen, George Cloud killed Sam Duckens. This with many other cutting scrapes goes far to satisfy the public that this class of labor would be better in their native haunts than in Illinois. The women, like the men, are veteran criminals, and boast of their many visits and stays in Knoxville, Tenn., and other jails. As visitors these women and men have but one place to go calling their homes—to saloons. And to say the least the parties thus styled women, go staggering home to return on the morrow. Is this conduct not demoralizing to society, and are they not dangerous to public good? Yea, the dumping of the unwelcome people in Illinois has robbed honest men of all that is dear to human existence—employment that feeds their wives and babes, and today the little barefoot children know not where their tomorrow’s bread will come, whilst mothers in agony groan.
Even the wholesale issuance of warrants which has filled the Williamson county, Illinois, jail with union miners, is but in part demonstraging the untiring persistency with which the unprincipled agency seeks to intimidate and drag down the wage earner. Intimidation is a dread to every true miner that lives, and the prisons of Siberia with all their sorrow could not cause us to depart from our course.
The U.M.W. of A. only ask peace and recognition and living wages. Rioting, bloodshed and murder is as far from their principles as the east is from the west. Were it not so, the U.M.W. of A. would not hazard so dangerous an undertaking as devolved upon them in assuming the leading lights of the land. The miner is not blind to the ways of operators or officials. Together we stand, and no unprincipled agency or disappointed or successful office seeker shall invade our quiet ranks and contaminate its pure virtue with subterfuges and empty promises.
Where was his excellency in the time of our lamentable distress? And what can Williamson county’s sheriff say about the burning of the U.M.W. of A. homes on June 30, 1899? He even smelled the smoke as our homes went up in ashes, leaving men, women and children with no where to lay their heads nor shoes or clothing, and why did the sheriff not deputize the citizens to arrest the perpetrators of that crime? Was the sheriff ever in need of assistance? Who did he deputize? The evening of June 30th, 1899, when he had Eli Sucker, Ed Richard and Jim Hicks, three union men arrested and Mr. Brush’s ex-convicts and fired upon them? The sheriff saw it, was there, knows the parties. Why is there no arrest or efforts to do so? How long will justice sleep? Even the State troops are playing a prominent part in arresting union miners, charged with offenses weeks before the troops came to Carterville.
The above is just the opposite to the Pana and Virden trouble in which the governor never once lost sight of the sheriff’s duties. Had Williamson county’s Sheriff exhausted his resources in deputizing citizens of his county to serve him as deputies? Even the offered services of law-abiding citizens were not in accordance with the sheriff’s views, and his much abused friend Brush. Let us see how Mr. Brush has suffered. In May 1898, he imported 200 men and families from Jellico, Tenn., to Carterville, Ill., arriving at place named. Brush deliberately entered the union miners’ homes (whites) and bundled their beddings, wives and children together and cast them out in the rain and mud, knowing at the time that those poor unfortunate miners with their families had nowhere to look for shelter. At that time the mud was eight inches deep at and around Brush mines. The brutal, cruel and inhuman treatment perpetrated upon the union by this Christian (?) gentleman has no parallel—no not in the history of the mining industry, and for more than a year those men robbed of home and employment have sat idle and saw their families move from place to place, pale, haggard and hungry. This without a protest or demonstration of violence. Mr. Brush’s fatherly kindness to his ex-convicts scab labor is a direct repetition of the monkey that weighed the cheese for the cat. He was their host at and around Jellico, Tenn., a distance of 461 miles from Carterville. Notwithstanding, transportation rates Mr. Brush charged his criminals nine dollars and twenty-five cents ($9.25) per head. These people were in transit one day and night. During this time he furnished his men with one loaf of bread and one pound of sausage, for which Mr. Brush charged $1.25 per man or woman. Each receiving the same, the total cost for bread and sausage was about $360.00. His second act of kindness was to open a general merchandise store for the benefit of his children. On articles purchased: Stool bottom chairs that cost 25 cents in Carterville, cost 50 cents at Brush’s store; chickens that cost 20 cents at Carterville, cost 40 cents at the mines. The grip drill at the mines cost $10.50. The (Thompson make) needle, $1.75; tamper, $1.75 and thus the accounts run. The three-ton cars that formerly weighed 5,500 dropped to 4,000, notwithstanding the miners filled and cribbed the cars to their utmost capacity. After Mr. Brush had worked his men a few months at these figures he struck on a new and novel idea. He took from each and every car 200 pounds per day for one month. When his men investigated, Mr. Brush told them that he (Brush) had weighed the cars 200 pounds in excess for six months on their first arrival, and every man that came in Brush mines more than a year ago is in the same or sadder condition today than when they left the Jellico mines many owing today transportion.
The convict spirit is still fresh in their bosoms, from the fact that they go to work under guard, come home under guard, sleep and eat the same, and are content. If this is not prison then I am lost.
In speaking of this class of labor, they do not represent the better class of the Southern Afro-American. The evidence of this is seen from the slightest observation. They have no furniture, few clothes and no money, showing that they had sold their household effects. They had no ties of friendship that could induce them to stay at home. Why homes? They have none. The better element of Southern colored people have a few hogs, chickens, furniture, etc.; also friends and no labor agent or transportation could cause them to leave their homes. These facts are consistent, notwithstanding the actions of the officials or I.N.G. or their services or object at Carterville, and all fair impartial thinkers are today at a loss to know the cause and are praying for an explanation.
COLORED UNION MINER,
Now in jail.
United Mine Workers’ Journal, July 20, 1899.
52. COLORED MINERS IN A FRENZY—COMPANY OF STATE TROOPS ARRIVES TO PRESERVE ORDER
Carterville, Ill., was the scene about noon yesterday of a bloody riot in which six negroes were instantly killed and one fatally wounded, while two others received slight wounds. Trouble has been brewing since the militia was recalled by Gov. Tanner Monday. The white miners of the place have refused to allow the negro miners to come into town, always meeting them and ordering them back. Yesterday, however, 13 negroes, all armed, marched into town going to the Illinois Central depot, where they exchanged a few words with the white miners. Then the negroes pulled their pistols and opened fire on the white men, who at once returned the fire. A running fight was kept up. The negroes scattered, some being closely followed by the white men up the main street, while the rest fled down the railroad track. After the fight was over six dead bodies were picked up and another man was found mortally wounded.
Rev. T. J. FLOYD
Trouble has existed at Carter ville off and on for over a year, but no fatalities occurred until June 30, when a passenger train on the Illinois Central railroad was fired into and one negro woman was killed. These negroes were on their way to the mines, having come from Pana. A short time afterward a pitched battle ensued between the union and non-union forces, during which the dwellings occupied by the non-union negroes were burned. Several arrests were made, and the accused are in jail at Marion awaiting trial on the charge of murder. Superintendent Donnelly of the Brush mines, where the negroes live, reports that the negroes are worked into a frenzy and that while he is doing all in his power to hold them in check, he is afraid that he cannot do so much longer. Co. C. 4th regiment, Illinois national guards, arrived at Carterville last night, and will endeavor to preserve order. Forty miners from the Herrin mines are reported to have left that place for Carterville armed with Krag-Jorgenson rifles and determined to assist the white miners.
Springfield Republican, September 18, 1899.
53. THE MINE RIOT AT CARTERVILLE, ILL.
Chicago (Ill.) Inter-Ocean
The riot which broke out at Carterville on September 17 could have been no surprise to any person familiar with the conditions prevailing at the Brush coal mine. About two and half months ago a train load of Negroes on their way to that mine were fired on near Carterville, and troops were ordered to the town. They stayed there ten weeks—until September 11. During all that time the peace was unbroken, but only one week later came murderous riot. The militia were ordered away from Carterville by Governor Tanner at the urgent solicitation of the leading citizens, who pledged themselves to maintain order, but who were powerless to do so. As subsequent events showed, this solicitation was absolutely unwarranted. It was unreasonable and indefensible. What has occurred was just what might have been expected—just what has occured elsewhere under similar circumstances. More than twenty lives have been sacrificed in this state during the last year in the coal mine controversies. The deaths have been about equally divided between whites and colored men.
Chicago (Ill.) Times-Herald
After his summary of the accounts that had reached him of the slaughter of Negro miners at Carterville by white union laborers, Governor Tanner says: “It seems to me from the brief facts reported and the further fact that no one was killed except the Negro miners that it was prearranged, preconcerted, premeditated murder.” Murder it undoubtedly was. The white miners were moved by a murderous intent as soon as the Negroes joined the loitering throng at the railroad station. They were the aggressors, and they were mad with the thirst for blood.
The race problem of the south and the labor problem of the north have both been factors in this snicking tragedy which will make the name of Illinois a byword and a hissing among the states of the union. The white miners joined “nigger” and “scab” among their epithets, showing that they were as quick to raise the one issue as the other, so that there is some point in the speech of the Georgia planter who warns his hands against coming to this commonwealth. For the present, at least, we cannot protest against his charges. But there is still a way out of our disgrace and degradation. Let the murderers be brought to justice with all the promptness that the courts can command. Let the scaffold proclaim that the laws of the state may not be defied with impunity.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph
Strife between the white American laborer and the Negro or any other laborer belonging to an inferior alien race whose standard of comfort is pitched upon a lower scale, and the representatives of which can, therefore, thrive on lower wages—strife between the American white laborer and all such is a foregone conclusion, and may be looked for more and more in every part of this union as time goes on. Up to the present time there has been more strife in the northern than in the southern states for the simple reason that the southern white laborer is born to the yoke, so to speak, and is thus less quick to resent unequal competition. But there are signs that he is growing more and more restive, and when the old slave owners and old slaves are gone (both of which elements tend to preserve the peace), it is to be feared that he may become as violent and implacable in his attitude toward Negro competitors as are his white brothers in Illinois at the present time.
Charleston (S.C.) News and Courier
The announcement that South Carolina farmers had resorted to violence to rid themselves of Negro competition aroused our esteemed western and northern contemporaries to righteous indignation. Their comments upon the Greenwood incident ran the gamut from pained protest to intemperate invective. We have no inclination to defend the Greenwood whitecaps, but we do wish to call attention to the fact that they are less guilty than the men who shot Negro laborers down in cold blood in Carterville. The northern press will kindly observe that while the whitecaps of South Carolina contented themselves with beating and otherwise maltreating their colored competitors, their Illinois confrers killed their opponents outright. These matters are of little moment to the unfortunate victims of northern prejudice and brutality, but they are worth mentioning just now in view of the abuse to which the people of the south are constantly subjected.
Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post
Governor Tanner’s action when the previous riots occurred must in the nature of things have incited the outbreaks of Sunday, with the resulting killing. Last spring he justified the forcible exclusion of Negro citizens from the state and this stirred hot blood and many were killed. The Carterville tragedy flowed legitimately and inevitably from the governor’s action at that time. It illustrates the danger of placing incompetent and reckless men in positions of high executive power and responsibility.
Public Opinion (Chicago), September 28, 1899.
Carterville, Ill., was this week the scene of as disgraceful affair as ever falls to the lot of man to witness. It was the same story—racial difficulties.
The Carterville incident, where six Negroes were shot to death, is no more nor no less than a complement to the affair at Pana, Ill., of several weeks ago and now supposed to be closed. It never will be closed! It’s the story, we repeat it, It’s the story of the strong against the weak. White miners of that region have combined and sworn that a black man shall not exist if they can have anything to do with it. They call themselves having a union, which is no more than an abominable “trust” so far as it relates to the still poorer blacks. In spite of the determination that Negroes should not “light” in the town, thirteen of them defied the threats of the white miners and their sympathizers and marched boldly into the town. The courage was commendable enough—but the result six Negroes, who but a few minutes before marched exultingly into the town with heads erect, breathing a defiance justifiable in the sight of God, warranted by the spirit of the laws of the land, hearts beating firm with high hopes and manly resolves, have been shot to death. The hot blood that leaped and surged as it coursed its way through its portals has been stilled by the assassins’ hands. Those wounds, poor dumb mouths, if they could speak would they say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” or would they curse their souls?
At any event, the shooting down of six Negroes for dare entering a town will mark a racial epoch—the beginning of the end, whatever the end will be. It may be well held that there was not the usual case of provoke as it sometimes happens. The white men felt outraged that the Negroes dared act against their orders. It is but another evidence how cheap Negro life is held on the Continent of America. The Negroes now have a faint idea as to what the future may mean. The laws are powerless to cope with this class of evils. What does it mean? It means that Negroes must hold their lives dearer. It means the Negroes must create a valuation if one does not exist.
Washington Bee, October 7, 1899.
55. A COLORED MOTHER
Who Has Witnessed the Benefits of Our Organization
Springfield, Ill., March 26.—Editor Journal: I wish to say a few words in your valuable paper, as I read a few letters in your last issue of some ladies, and thought if any woman had any heartfelt thanks or gratitude to the United Mine Workers, it is me. First, my husband is one of the men that was arrested and put in prison because he refused to work when he had been called out by the officials of the union. You may know I was at a loss to know what to do. I was in Danville, Ill., and my husband was in jail. I picked up the paper and saw that they had put him in jail, and it was but a short time until I saw Mr. W. R. Russell, our Vice President, coming to my rescue. So they took me and my children to Springfield and placed us nearby the jail and convenient to the schools, and put clothes on my children’s backs, shoes on their feet, books in their hands and started them to school. They handled all just as if we were children of their family. They also treated my husband while he was locked up just as kind as if he had been in a hotel locked up. So I hardly know how to thank the U.M.W. of A. for its kindness to me and my husband and children. We certainly enjoy reading the Journal and will not be without it in our house if we can help it. Again, I must say that my husband would have been in prison yet had it not been for the officials of the U.M.W. of A. He was sentenced to six months from Sept. 19, 1899, to March 19, 1900, but through the officials of the U.M.W. of A. he was released on Dec. 25, 1899. So you see, my husband is with us since Dec. This is my first letter to the Journal, and I guess I am the only colored lady writing, so I will close at this by saying good luck to the United Mine Workers. I remain, yours truly,
MRS. WM. CANSLER (colored).
United Mine Workers’ Journal, May 22, 1900.