18 spellbinding pictures that tell the story of coal country's past and present.

Coal has been part of America's past for just about as long as there's been an America.

It was the energy source du jour for the Industrial Revolution. In the 1300s, some Native Americans used it for cooking fuel. And the first North American coal deposits may even predate the dinosaurs!

But if we're talking America the post-colonial country, then nowhere was it more important than in the Appalachian Mountains, in places like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.


Unfortunately, what coal mining looked like back then and what coal mining looks like now are stunningly different. According a new study, coal mining is actually changing the entire landscape of Appalachia.

So let's jump in the Wayback Machine to 1930s Appalachia and see what things were like (and how things have changed for the better and worse) in 18 pictures:

1. Everyone looked dapper as hell back in 1935.


Sunday, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

2. Including this ridiculously photogenic schoolteacher.

Schoolteacher in Red House, West Virginia, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

3. Who may have actually taught in this somewhat photogenic classroom.

School in Red House, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

4. Check out the awesome kid in the front. Respect.

Schoolchildren of Omar, West Virginia. Date unknown. Image from The New York Public Library.

Unfortunately, the kids in this picture and the one above it probably wouldn't have been seen in the same classroom. Segregation was still very much a thing in the '30s, which meant that many public spaces, including schools, were divided by race. Things would largely remain this way until the mid-1960s.

5. Outside of school and work, people went to the movies – which cost a dime.

Movie theater in Omar, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

6. They entertained themselves by playing music.

Musicians in Maynardville, Tennessee, 1935. Image from Ben Shahn/Wikimedia Commons.

Appalachia is home to some of America's richest musical traditions, including country and bluegrass.

7. They even "pirated" football games.

Men watching football in Star City, West Virginia, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

If by "pirated" you mean "watched through a fence while nobody was looking."

8. This is Williamson, West Virginia, in 1935.

Image from The New York Pubic Library.

It's changed a lot since then.

9. This is Williamson in 2008.

Image from Flo Night/Wikimedia Commons.

Williamson is home to the Williamson Rail Yard, which serviced the many coal mines in the region.

10. Coal miners worked long hours in dark, dangerous mines.

Coal miners in Kentucky, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

11. Coal mining was tough, dangerous work.

Slate pickers separating the coal from rock in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Date unknown. Image from The New York Public Library.

Coal mining required workers to do backbreaking labor in cramped conditions, often deep underground.

12. But it was honorable work and, for many people, the best way to provide for their families.

A coal miner with his family in 1938. Image from The New York Public Library.

13. As much respect as we have for coal miners of the past, it can be hard to support the industry today. Because in 1935, coal mining looked like this:

Image from The New York Public Library.

14. But now, coal mining looks like this:

GIF from Smithsonian Channel/YouTube.

See how flat that is? A lot of modern coal companies use a technique known as mountaintop removal mining to get at the remaining coal seams tucked deep into the mountains.

15. Mountaintop removal mining is exactly what it sounds like: blasting away the entire top of a mountain to get to the coal below.

Image from ilovemountains.org/Flickr.

This practice is widespread throughout coal country. In fact, a new study found that the area of study became 40% flatter after mountaintop removal mining. This has a lot of people worried about the effects on the geology and ecosystems in the area.

"Even if we stopped mountaintop mining tomorrow, what kind of landscape is going to be left behind?" said study author Emily S. Bernhardt.

16. Even more worrisome is what mountaintop removal mining may be doing to the water.

Image from ilovemountains.org/Flickr.

Excess rock and refuse often ends up dumped in gigantic piles in the valleys and streams below the mountain. Heavy metals and chemicals can leach out of the pile into the waterway, affecting any animals or people downstream.

17. The hardworking men and women who've done this job for generations deserve respect. But ... there's a better way.

Coal is an intimate part of Appalachia's history and the last thing we want to do is claim that it's not important. But Appalachia has a long history of renewables too. They've had hydroelectric power plants for over 100 years!

A wind farm in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Image from Jeff Kubina/Flickr.

Even though coal production has been falling in the last few years, many coal companies are indicating that they want to double down on mountaintop removal mining.

But now that we know how harmful coal mining can be for the environment and have the technology and wherewithal to do something different, we can and should be looking elsewhere for our electricity.

18. Then maybe, just maybe, we can leave the dangerous job of coal mining and its effects on the environment where they belong: in the past.

Coal miners in Williamson, 1935. Image from The New York Public Library.

Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

Keep Reading Show less