In 1921 Blair Mountain in southern West Virginia was the site of the country’s bloodiest armed insurrection since the Civil War, a battle pitting miners led by Frank Keeney against agents of the coal barons intent on quashing organized labor. It was the largest labor uprising in US history. Ninety years later, the site became embroiled in a second struggle, as activists came together to fight the coal industry, state government, and the military-industrial complex in a successful effort to save the battlefield—sometimes dubbed “labor’s Gettysburg”—from destruction by mountaintop removal mining.
The Road to Blair Mountainis the moving and sometimes harrowing story of Charles Keeney’s fight to save this irreplaceable landscape. Beginning in 2011, Keeney—a historian and great-grandson of Frank Keeney—led a nine-year legal battle to secure the site’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places. His book tells a David-and-Goliath tale worthy of its own place in West Virginia history. A success story for historic preservation and environmentalism, it serves as an example of how rural, grassroots organizations can defeat the fossil fuel industry.
Charles B. Keeney is an assistant professor of history at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. The author of two books, he served as president of Friends of Blair Mountain and was a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.