by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor

Huntington – Marshall University will present a Labor Film Festival at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.  

Viewers can experience labor-focused films from central Appalachia that highlight the struggles, successes, and daily lives of workers. This one-night Labor Film Festival is part of the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial Events commemoration, in partnership with the Mine Wars Museum.

“This film festival was open to all filmmakers from central Appalachia in hopes of providing an opportunity to highlight original stories about labor from within the region,” said Tijah Bumgarner, assistant professor of video production in the College of Arts and Media at Marshall. 

The evening concludes with a screening of “The Revolutionist: Eugene V. Debs” and a panel discussion with Allison Duerk, director of the Eugene V. Debs Museum, and historian Mark Haworth, a Debs Museum board member.  Debs was a passionate labor leader, progressive political figure, and a formidable speaker in a time of great change in the United States. 

The Battle of Blair Mountain, which took place in August of 1921, marked its place in history as the largest armed uprising in the United States, other than the Civil War. The United Mine Workers of America and coal mining families in southern West Virginia rose to fight the mine owners for the injustices they had suffered as part of their employment, which denied them many of the civil rights that were given to citizens elsewhere in the country.

The five-day battle took place near the border of Boone and Logan counties, after union member miners took on the Logan County sheriff, state police, the state militia, and coal company employees who had gathered to stop the miners from entering Logan County. Over 100 miners and some 20 anti-union men were killed in the battle. Learn more about the Battle of Blair Mountain at www.blair100.com

“Too often our stories are told from an outsider’s perspective. The Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial is an opportunity to make new connections and develop new narratives by, with, and for our people,” said Kenzie New Walker, director of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. “The Blair Film Festival puts these proud, working-class stories back into the hands of Appalachians and front-and-center.”

For the centennial commemoration, representatives from the Mine Wars Museum and community organizations across West Virginia and Appalachia, along with committed individual volunteers, have developed a series of interactive and interpretive activities to be held throughout 2021 in counties across West Virginia. The culmination is a main event over Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4-6, 2021. A schedule of events can be found on the official website at www.blair100.com/events.

The film festival event is sponsored by the Marshall’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and Video Production Program in the College of Arts and Media, the Mine Wars Museum, and the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial, with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.