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Ever heard of the Battle of Blair Mountain? Federal troops were called against 13,000 miners.

Three battles that led to the biggest armed insurrection since the Civil War.

Ever heard of the Battle of Blair Mountain? Federal troops were called against 13,000 miners.

Have you ever heard of the West Virginia mine wars?

Maybe they were mentioned in your high school history class, or maybe they were skimmed over, or even left out entirely for one reason or another. Too often, these stories are deemed not "important" enough to warrant the time and attention they deserve.

But the West Virginia mine wars are critical to understanding the history of the labor movement in the U.S. — and soon a new museum will be open to tell the story.


The Battle of Blair Mountain, for example, was — and still is — the most violent labor confrontation in history, in which union-supporting coal miners fought against local government and a coal company-funded militia, eventually involving the U.S. Army.

So, what happened?

Be glad you weren't born into "Coal Country" West Virginia in the 1800s.

In the late 1800s in West Virginia, it wasn't easy to be a coal miner. For starters, mining wasn't just a job, it was a way of life — and a hard way of life. You lived in a company town, bought all your food and supplies at the company store, were paid in company money called "scrip," sent your kids to the company school, read the company paper, obeyed the company-employed police … on and on.

Because the coal companies controlled every aspect of the miners' lives, they could do whatever they wanted: pay as little as they felt like, teach what they felt like, and trap the miners in a cycle of bare-bones survival as they saw fit.

Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" paints a good picture of the life of a coal miner.

Not to mention, the job was rife with danger. Fatal accidents were frequent, and illnesses such as black lung disease claimed miners and their families alike.

As the decades wore on, the owners of these coal companies kept raking in the profits. The fledgling United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) started to gain a foothold in many parts of the country — and even in many parts of West Virginia — to fight for a better way of life.

But southern West Virginia stayed mostly non-union, and the coal companies were quite determined to keep it that way.

The stakes were high and so was the tension building between workers and their bosses. And that tension built and built until it eventually exploded into what is to this day the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War.

Typical mining family.

"BLOODSHED REIGNS IN VIRGINIA HILLS!"

That was the terrifying newspaper headline that described how those tensions erupted into violence during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912, near Charleston, West Virginia. It was the first major demonstration of the violence to come as the workers stood up for their rights.

Coal miners were fed up with the low wages and the poor working conditions — loading tons of coal for weeks, months, years on end in the cramped, dark mines, only to find themselves deeper in debt at the end of each day.

The miners demanded the right to unionize, the right to free speech and assembly (y'know, that bit in the U.S. Constitution!?), the right to be paid accurately and in real U.S. dollars rather than the company scrip. They were tired of being cheated out of their already meager wages. You see, being paid by the ton and having no access to scales, they had no choice but to take their earnings at the word of the company weigh men. “16 tons? Nah, that's only 12 today."

Coal coming out of a mine.

When nearly 10,000 miners finally went on strike, their protests were largely nonviolent. Until, that is, the mine operators called in the notorious Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to break up the strike. Over 300 armed men descended on the area on behalf of Baldwin-Felts.

Beatings were common. Sniper attacks and sabotage were also used. Miners were forcefully taken from their homes and tossed into the street to live in tents. Inside these tents, people were starving.

Miners called it the “Death Special."

The tent colonies were soon subject to a new tactic from the company goons — a heavily armored train that the miners called the “Death Special" was sent through the tent colony, firing machine guns and high-powered rifles at tents.

In a Senate committee investigation that followed, reported by the Wichita Times, one woman described her encounter with the train:

Mrs. Annie Hill, who limped into the committee room, told how she shielded her three little children from the bullets by hiding them in the chimney corner of her little home at Holly Grove when the armored train made it appearance. She said she had been shot through the limbs and the bullet had gone through the Bible and hymnbook on her parlor table.

Martial law was declared. Mary Harris “Mother" Jones (a feisty union activist already in her 70s who had come to the area to help the miners) was arrested and imprisoned.

"If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout, 'Freedom for the working class!'" — Mother Jones

After nearly 12 months, at least 50 people lay dead. The number grew when others succumbed to starvation and sickness from the near siege-like conditions in the tents and on the streets.

A miner's family in the tent colony, 1920.

A Massacre in Matewan

Six years later, unionized miners in other parts of the country were seeing huge victories — like a 27% pay increase. This inspired the miners around Matewan, West Virginia, to join the United Mine Workers of America in record numbers. By the spring of 1920, 3,000 Matewan miners had joined.

But the Stone Mountain Coal Company retaliated.

This time, the miners had key public officials on their side: both the mayor and Sheriff Sid Hatfield.

So when the coal company called in the Baldwin-Felts (or the “Baldwin Thugs," as the miners knew them), Sheriff Hatfield met them at the train station. After a brief verbal tussle, the Baldwin Thugs carried on, throwing six mining families and all of their possessions out of their homes and into the rain.

Word spread fast, and soon an enraged group of miners headed to the train station where Sheriff Hatfield had promised to arrest the Baldwin men.

The two forces came together on the steps of the Chambers Hardware Store.


The site of the showdown: Chambers Hardware Store, then and now.

When the dust settled, the mayor was shot, seven Baldwin-Felts detectives were killed, and two miners were dead.

Sheriff Hatfield — who claimed credit for the deaths of two Baldwin Thugs — became a hero. This was the first time the seemingly invincible "Baldwin Thugs" had been defeated, which gave the miners hope.

The 1987 John Sayles movie "Matewan" is a dramatic portrayal of the events leading up to the Battle of Matewan. In this scene, the white miners discussing the union get a surprise visitor in the form of an African-American miner and learn a valuable lesson. (Warning: racial slurs.)

In the spring of 1921, charges against Hatfield and his men were either dismissed or they were found not guilty. The enraged Baldwin-Felts crew swore vengeance, and just a few months later, they killed Sheriff Hatfield and his deputy on the steps of the county courthouse.

Nearly 2,000 people marched in their funeral procession. It wound its way through the town of Matewan and to the cemetery in Kentucky. As the rage built among the miners, it headed toward a final confrontation —the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Matewan was "a symbolic moment in a larger, broader and continuing historical struggle — in the words of Mingo county miner J.B. Wiggins, the 'struggle for freedom and liberty.'" — Historian David A. Corbin



Logan defenders.

"ACTUAL WAR IS RAGING IN LOGAN": The Battle of Blair Mountain

Another newspaper headline described the outbreak of violence, the culmination of decades of mistreatment by the mining companies and years of rising tensions. This was the Battle of Blair Mountain.

It was just after the Matewan Massacre, and thousands of miners began pouring out of the mountains to take up arms against the villains who had attacked their families, assassinated their hero, and mistreated them for decades. The miners wore red bandanas around their necks to distinguish themselves from the company men wearing white patches and to avoid getting shot by their own troops. (And now you know where the word "rednecks" comes from.)

The sheriff of Little Coal River sent in law enforcement to keep the miners at bay, but the miners captured the troopers, disarmed them, and sent them running. The West Virginia governor also lost his chance for a peaceful resolution when, after meeting with some of the miner's leaders, he chose to reject their demands.

The miners were 13,000 strong as they headed toward the non-union territory of Logan and Mingo counties.

A Blair fighter in 1921.

They faced Sheriff Chafin — who was financially supported by the coal companies — and his 2,000 men who acted as security, police, and militia. Chafin stationed many of his troops in the hills around Blair Mountain, West Virginia. From there, Chafin dropped tear gas and pipe bombs on the miners.

For a moment, it seemed like the confrontation might come to an end when a cease-fire agreement was made, and many of the miners began to head home. But the cease-fire broke when Sheriff Chafin's men were found shooting miners and their families in the streets of Sharples, West Virginia, just beyond Blair Mountain.

They never imagined it would come to this: Federal troops were called in to break up a strike.

"FIGHTING CONTINUES IN MOUNTAINS AS FEDERAL TROOPS REACH MINGO; PLANES REPORTED BOMBING MINERS," reported a New York Times headline shortly after Aug. 25, 1921, when the battle escalated to a new point in U.S. history — with tactics that have not been seen before or since.

On Aug. 30, President Warren Harding intervened, placing all of West Virginia under martial law. Harding sent 14 planes to West Virginia that were fully armed for combat but were only used for surveillance. According to Robert Shogan, "the Federal force that mattered most were the infantry units that began arriving ... [on] September 2, some 2,100 strong."

Blair fighters turning in guns.

The miners never made it through Chafin's lines — and it's hard to say what would've happened if they had. After 1 million rounds were fired, the miners retreated. It was time to go home and fight another day.

Over 100 people had been killed — about 30 on Chafin's side and 50-100 on the union miners' side. Almost 1,000 of the miners were indicted for murder and treason, and many more lost their jobs.

Federal troops standing with arms collected from the striking miners after surrender.

In the short-term, the defeat of the striking miners was devastating to the UMWA. Membership plummeted from 50,000 to 10,000 over the next several years. It took until 1935 — post-Great Depression and FDR's New Deal — for the rest of the mines in southern West Virginia to become unionized.

But a single battle doesn't tell the whole story of the larger fight for justice.

In the end, the coal companies lost more than they gained. These bloody conflicts drew the nation's attention to the plight of the long-suffering mine workers, and unions began to understand that they needed to fight for laws that allowed them to organize and that penalized companies that broke the law.

These victories of conscience allowed a number of other unions, like the United Automobile Workers and the United Steelworkers of America, to flourish as well.

Each battle led to the next.

Each fight solidified the resolve and desire of the miners and their families to stand up for their rights to improve their lot in life.

For these brave workers, the American dream was something they had to fight for, something they died for, and something they wanted to pass on to future generations, despite the efforts of the coal companies to prevent them.

Many people have never heard these stories, but now, they can.

94 years after workers laid down their lives for the right to fair employment, their story is taking root inside the building that used to be the Chambers Hardware Store in downtown Matewan.

The first museum to tell the story of these brave people is opening this May.

The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum will open to tell the people's history of the mine wars — something all Americans can be proud of.

Want to learn more and help them reach their opening fundraising goal? You can donate here. Or read more about the museum and the mine wars here.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Like millions of others, I tuned in last night to watch Oprah Winfrey's interview with (former) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Although watching "The Crown" has admittedly piqued my curiosity about the Royal Family, I've never had any particular interest in following the drama in real life. As inconsequential as the un-royaling of Harry and Meghan is to me personally, it's a historically and socially significant development.

The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.

Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.

Whoa.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.

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When 59 children died on Christmas Eve 1913, the world cried with the town of Calumet, Michigan.

Woody Guthrie sang about this little-known piece of history.

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AFL Labor Mini Series

A one-man drill operation

In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C&H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists ran roughshod over their workers — a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers' demands included pay raises, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines (which mine owners didn't want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins “do not cost us anything.")

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Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

"I hope I will be in other movies," he added. Then, the cutest—he pinched his own cheeks and asked, "Is this a dream? I hope it's not a dream."

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