- Suggested Reading
The Buffalo Creek Disaster:
Death at Buffalo Creek : Tom Nugent. W.W. Norton, 1973.
Buffalo Creek: Valley of Death. Dennis Deitz and Carlene Mowery. Mountain Memory Books ( South Charleston, WV), 1992
The Buffalo Creek Disaster: How the Survivors of One of the Worst Disasters in Coal-mining History Brought Suit Against the Coal Company--and Won: Gerald M. Stern. Vintage, 1977
The Pittston Mentality. Tom Bethell and Davitt McAteer. Appalachian Movement Press, 1972
Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood . Kai T. Erikson. Simon and Schuster, 1977
A study of the human effects of the disaster, this book continues to be cited in introductory sociology texts as a definitive study of community disorganization.
Revisiting Buffalo Creek and Everything In Its Path: Deconstructing Kai Erickson’s Stereotypes . Lynda Ann Ewen & Julia A. Lewis. Appalachian Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1 Fall 1999, Appalachian State University, Boone NC. (Also available online)
These scholars argue that Erickson’s research was inadequate, that it violated some of the most basic precepts of social science research methodology, and is indefensible by the usual standards of social science. Most unfortunate they state, Everything In Its Path has become a part of the social construction of the modern stereotype of Appalachia.
West Virginia : A History . John Alexander Williams. West Virginia University Press, 2001
An excellent analysis of the historical events that set the stage for disasters such as Buffalo Creek in West Virginia. Includes a chapter on the disaster.
The Unquiet Earth . Denise Giardina. W.W. Norton, 1992
A novel about coalfield residents struggling to maintain their lives against the brutal forces of oppression, neglect, poverty and disaster, based in part on the events at Buffalo Creek.
Coal: A Human History . Barbara Freese. Penquin, 2003
Coal has been both lauded for its efficiency as a heating fuel and maligned for the lung-wrenching black smoke it gives off. Part history and part environmental argument, this book teaches an important lesson about the interdependence of humans and their natural environment both for good and ill throughout history.
Digging Our Own Graves: Coal Miners and the Struggle over Black Lung Disease. Barbara Ellen Smith. Temple University Press, 1987
A history of the controversy over black lung disease and analysis of the victories, significance and limitations of the Black Lung Movement, documented through the experiences of participants. (Many Black Lung Assoc. members were involved with the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the Buffalo Creek Disaster.)
A Strike Like No Other Strike: Law and Resistance During the Pittston Strike of 1989-1990 . Richard A. Brisbin, Jr. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002
Description and analysis of one of the most important recent labor struggles.
Struggle and Lose, Struggle and Win: The United Mine Workers . Elizabeth Levy and Ted Richards. Four Winds Press, 1977
An accessible history of the UMWA written for ages 12-18.
Storming Heaven . Denise Giardina. W.W. Norton, 1987
A powerful novel about coalfield life and the events leading to the Battle of Blair Mountain by one of West Virginia’s finest writers.
The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising. Robert Shogun. Westview Press, 2004
Depicts the relatively unrecognized but highly dramatic 1921 confrontation culminating at Blair Mountain (near Buffalo Creek), between unionized mineworkers, mine owners, and the federal government in the largest armed uprising since the Civil War.
Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness . Erik Reece. Riverhead Books, 2006.
The author chronicles how, in one year, strip miners used mountain top removal mining to shear away Kentucky's aptly named Lost Mountain, and offers a searing indictment of how a country's energy lust is ravaging the hills and hollows of Appalachia.
Under Mined. Clara Bingham. Washington Monthly, January 2005 (article available on line)
When a flood of toxic mining sludge wreaked havoc in Appalachia in 2000, how did the White House respond? By letting the coal company off the hook.
To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia. Chad Montrie. North Carolina University Press, 2003.
A look at grassroots environmental activism by real people, showing a long-neglected dimension of American environmentalism.
Coal Mining Communities:
Creeker: A Woman's Journey. Linda Scott Derosier. University Press of Kentucky, 2002
A memoir of growing up in, and then living outside of, eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains, by an author proud of her heritage.
Coal Miner's Wives: Portraits of Endurance . Carol A.B. Gieson. University Press of Kentucky,1995
A study exploring the impact of the coal industry on women’s lives.
Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner's Daughter. Loretta Lynn & George Vecsey . Da Capo Press (Reissue), 2001
Memphis Tennessee Garrison: The Remarkable Life of a Black, Appalachian Woman. Memphis Tennessee Garrison, Ancella R. Bickley & Lynda Ann Ewen. Ohio University Press, 2001 At age 78, Appalachian school teacher and union organizer Memphis Tennessee Garrison recounted her life story reaching back to a time when members of her family were slaves, up through the years when U.S. Steel ran McDowell County, WV (including its schools) and into the "civil rights struggle."
Black Days, Black Dust: The Memories of an African-American Coal Miner. Robert Armstead. University of Tennessee Press, 2002
This book is a fascinating comparison to Memphis Tennessee Garrison. The narrator lived and worked in the northern part of WV, where blacks were much more a minority than in the southern coalfields.
Our Appalachia: An Oral History . Laurel Shackelford and William Weinberg. Hill and Wang (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux), 1977. The personal histories of eastern Kentucky mountain folks as collected by students at Alice Lloyd College
At Home in the Heart of Appalachia . John O'Brien. Anchor, 2002
A personal memoir of growing up in and away from Appalachia woven with an honest regional history.
The Appalachian Region:
Appalachia : A History . John Alexander Williams. University of North Carolina Press, 2002
Interweaving social, political, environmental, economic, and popular history, the book chronicles four and a half centuries of the Appalachian past.
Voices From the Mountains . Collected & Recorded by Candie Carawan and Guy Carawan. University of Georgia Press, 1996 Tells the turbulent story of the Appalachian South in the 20 th Century through the faces, words, and songs of mountain people.
Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930 . Ronald D. Eller. University of Tennessee Press, 1982
A sensitive history of five crucial decades in Appalachia that offers a damning indictment of industrial capitalism.
The Road to Poverty: The Making of Wealth and Hardship in Appalachia . Dwight B. Billings & Kathleen M. Blee. Cambridge University Press, 2000
Only by understanding how Appalachia's poverty evolved, the authors warn, can effective policies be designed to alleviate that poverty.
Night Comes to the Cumberlands . Harry Caudill. Little, Brown and Company, 1962
The best-known history and description of the region's problems, its scholarship is now somewhat dated.
Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change . Stephen L. Fisher, editor. Temple University Press, 1993 Organizers and activists document the variety of citizen resistance and struggle in the region since 1960
Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes . Dwight Billings, Gurney Norman & Katherine Ledford, editors. University Press of Kentucky, 2001
Brings together some of Appalachia’s most outstanding scholars and activists to refute the on-going stereotyping of the region.
Comprehensive Appalachian Studies Bibliographies are available at:
The following Appalshop documentaries can provide further insight into the life of coal miners and their families, the problems associated with mining, and the effect of the industry on mining communities and the environment. Visit the Appalshop General Store for more information on these titles.
Coal Bucket Outlaw
To Save the Land and People
Hazel Dickens: Its Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song
Appalshop Films/Headwaters Television
Fighting for a Breath
Justice in the Coalfields
Long Journey Home
Mabel Parker Hardison Smith
Mine War on Blackberry Creek
Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category
On Our Own Land
Rough Side of the Mountain
Strip Mining: Energy, Environment & Economics
Coal Miner: Frank Jackson
In Ya Blood
Stripmining In Appalachia
U.M.W.A. 1970: A House Divided