May 20, 1894
The first bloodshed of the 1894 miners’ strike occurred when a strike breaker was killed May 20 by striking miners near Birmingham. In a show of strength and discontent, 8,000 miners left the job in April, demanding better wages. The strike followed similar walkouts across the country. The strikes were peaceful until mine operators began trying to reopen with strikebreakers. Powerful coal companies prevailed and the strikes were over by August, as mines resumed operation with the help of state militias and leased convicts.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
An electric tram moves through a tunnel of the Warner Coal Mines in Birmingham, ca. 1908. Miners fed coal from the mine shafts into chutes, where it emerged from the hatches that lined the tunnel. It then was transported to the surface by trams pulled by the train engine. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives)
Untitled photograph, likely from the Birmingham coal miners’ series. coal miners, Feb. 1937. (Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Coal miners, Birmingham, February 1937. (Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Child worker, Shorpy Higginbotham, Bessie Mine, Alabama. (Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine, December 1910. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Alabama miners’ houses near Birmingham, December 1935. (Photograph by Walker Evans, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Convicts in their sleeping quarters in Birmingham in 1907. Alabama was the last state in the nation to end the practice of leasing convicts to industries for their labor. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives)
On April 8, 1911, Pratt Consolidated Coal Company’s Banner Coal Mine collapsed from an explosion, killing 128 miners. The tragedy renewed debate on the convict-lease system and helped Gov. Emmet O’Neal push a mine safety bill through the state Legislature later that month. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History)
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