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W.Va. Mine Wars Museum gets grant for Blair Mountain project

Staff report

Williamson Daily News

MATEWAN, W.Va. — The National Endowment for the Humanities reported Wednesday that the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is the recipient of a $30,000 challenge grant for their long-term project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021.

Though still four years in the future, planning for the Blair Centennial Project has already begun, according to a news release. A celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of John Sayles’s acclaimed film about the West Virginia Mine Wars, “Matewan,” will take place this October. Sayles and his producer partner, Maggie Renzi, will both attend screenings of the film in Charleston. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Centennial project. The museum will be releasing more details about the screenings in coming weeks.

The five-day Battle of Blair Mountain unfolded on the border of Boone and Logan counties and pitted unionist coal miners against local law enforcement and citizen militias. The Blair Centennial Project will consist of five days of fun, interpretive activities spread out across the coalfield counties where the conflict took place. The NEH grant makes it possible for the Museum to hire a director to coordinate the activities. The grant is also intended to increase the museum’s fundraising capacity, while creating connections among humanities organizations across southern West Virginia.

The NEH grant committee called the Blair Centennial Project “A bold and collaborative effort to use the humanities to foster cultural tourism and give a challenged community hope for the future through respect for the past.”

West Virginia Humanities Council executive director Ken Sullivan said his organization will work with the Museum to ensure the success of the project. “The Mine Wars Museum is perfectly situated to coordinate the Blair Centennial Project,” he said. “Its Board of Directors consists of qualified historians, journalists, retired union miners, and community organizers who have a passion for this regional history and are enthusiastic about sharing it with the world.”

United Mine Workers of America Local 1440 in Matewan has supported the Museum’s efforts through event hosting, fundraising, and helping to spread the word.

“Local 1440 members are looking forward to partnering with the Museum on events that will bring visitors from all over the region to Matewan and on projects that will increase awareness about the role that local miners played in the national labor movement.” Secretary-treasurer of the organization Charles Dixon said.

The executive director of the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Stephanie Tyree, said the Blair Centennial Project has potential for economic development.

“Because of its rich history, Matewan has significant potential to benefit from heritage tourism,” she said. “The Blair Centennial Project will be a key ingredient in attracting visitors from outside the state to southern West Virginia for educational travel.”

Other institutions that wrote letters in support of the grant proposal included the West Virginia Labor History Association, the West Virginia Preservation Alliance, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, and Eliza Newland of the Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum at West Virginia University.

For more information on The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, visit

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