Written in Blood (Paperback)

Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction

By Wess Harris (Editor), Michael Kline (Other primary creator)

PM Press, 9781629634456, 264pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2017

List Price: 19.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Featuring Appalachia's leading scholars and activists, Written in Blood offers an accurate and uncensored understanding of coal mining history. Combining new revelations from the past with sketches of a sane path forward, this collection considers our past, present, and future. Sociologist Wess Harris further documents the infamous Esau scrip system for women, suggesting an institutionalized practice of forced sexual servitude that was part of coal company policy. In a conversation with award-winning oral historian Michael Kline, federal mine inspector Larry Layne explains corporate complicity in the 1968 Farmington Mine disaster which killed 78 men and catalyzed the passage of major safety reform. Moving to the next generation of thinkers and activists, attorney Nathan Fetty examines current events in Appalachia, and musician Carrie Kline suggests paths forward for people wishing to set their own course rather than depend on the kindness of corporations.

About the Author

Wess Harris is a sociologist, farmer, and educator who is widely recognized as an authority on West Virginia's Great Mine War. He curates the When Miners March Traveling Museum. Michael Kline has documented West Virginia folklife and music for decades. A frequent contributor to Goldenseal, where he was once assistant editor, Kline has also produced numerous audio documentaries for broadcast on WVPB, NPR, and BBC TV.

Praise For Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction

"For more than a century, the real history of the working people of our state has been deliberately scrubbed from our children’s schoolbooks and our collective knowledge. Written in Blood helps bring the true history of West Virginia working families back into the light of day. Read it. Learn it. Pass it on!" —Mike Caputo, International District 31 Vice President, United Mine Workers of America.

"Written in Blood cuts through the fog and conveys with fearless clarity the truth regarding how common people have been hoodwinked for decades. A must read." —Dwight Siemiaczko, Retired coal miner, Past Chairman of the UMWA Safety Committee, Local Union 8843, Founder and President, Paint Creek Watershed Association, Inc. 

"Written in Blood shines a critical light on the untold true history of the WV Mine Wars." —Mari-Lynn Evans, Director and Producer, Blood on the Mountain

"With Written in Blood, Wes Harris has once again called attention to how the West Virginia state government and the coal industry have struggled to keep our state’s real history buried beneath a slag heap of fairy tales and misinformation. His critics with find this book, like his other works, abrasive and filled with alleged distortions about the coal companies’ abuse and exploitation of the state’s coal miners and their families. His supporters will welcome Written in Blood as Harris once again pushes the boundaries in an effort to reveal that abuse and exploitation.” —David Corbin, author, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922

"For 200 years, the coal industry has promised us prosperity. Written in Blood leaves little doubt that the prosperity never arrives. The promise itself is contingent on us agreeing to our own destruction. We must agree to stand idly by as they destroy our communities, water, air, health, and lives. We owe them nothing. They owe us everything." —Maria Gunnoe, 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, 2012 Raoul Wallenberg Medalist for Human Rights

"Labor historian Wess Harris targets lost history in a brand new book that provides jaw-dropping accounts of how women were treated by an industry already widely known for its ruthlessness and callousness." —Counterpunch

"With Jim Justice as governor of West Virginia and Don Blankenship claiming to be a political prisoner, the role of power and politics in distorting history needs constant emphasis." —David Rouse, Journal of Appalachian Studies

"[Written in Blood] contains articles that that bring coal field struggles up to date and provide both inspiration and concrete suggestions for constructive participation in rectifying past abuses and building a more just future." —George Brosi, Appalachian Mountain Books

"Written in Blood comprises stories, interviews, and analyses that continue editor Harris’s unabashedly pro-miner and pro-union quest 'to take back our story and the cultural institutions now in the service of extractive industries.'" —B. M. Banta, Arkansas State University, Choice

"The book is especially strong on gender issues, such as the exploitation of young 'comfort girls' in remote mining camps and the Esau scrip system, in which the wives or widows of miners exchanged sex for the ersatz money used at the company store." —Publishers Weekly