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What is a Redneck? Redneck Definition and Origin
The term redneck comes from the West Virginia Coal Miners March
(aka Battle of Blair Mountain) when coal miners wore red bandanas around their necks to identify themselves as seeking the
opportunity to unionize. Here is the real...the true "Redneck history."
The Battle of Blair Mountain
was the largest organized armed uprising in American labor history and led almost directly to the labor laws currently in
effect in the United States of America. For nearly a week in late August and early September 1921, in Logan County, West Virginia,
between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted company-paid private detectives in an effort to unionize the southwestern
West Virginia mine counties. Unionization had succeeded elsewhere as part of a demographic boom that was triggered by the
extension of the railroad and was characterized by unprecedented immigrant hiring and exploitation in the region.
Though tensions had been simmering for years, the immediate catalyst for
the uprising was the unpunished murder of Sid Hatfield on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse on August 1, 1921. Hatfield,
the police chief of Matewan, was murdered by agents of the Baldwin-Felts private detective agency. He had been a long-time
supporter of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and their efforts to unionize the mines.
At a rally on August 7, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837-1930), prominent
labor and community organizer, called on the miners not to march into Logan and Mingo counties and set up the union by
force. Accused by some of losing her nerve, she rightly feared a bloodbath in a battle between lightly-armed union forces
and the more heavily-armed deputies from Logan County. Yet, feeling they had been lied to again by WV's Governor Morgan, armed
men began gathering at Lens Creek Mountain, near Marmet in Kanawha County on August 20, where four days later up to 13,000
had gathered and began marching towards Logan County. Miners near St. Albans, Kanawha County, WV, impatient to get to
the fighting commandeered a Chesapeake and Ohio freight train, renamed by the miners as the 'Blue Steel Special', to meet
up with the advanced column of marchers in Danville, Boone County, WV, on their way to Bloody Mingo. Meanwhile, the reviled
and anti-union Sheriff of Logan County, Don Chafin (1887-1954), had begun to set up defenses on Blair Mountain. Chafin was
supported financially by the Logan County Coal Operators Association creating the nation's largest private armed force of
The first skirmishes occurred on the morning of August 25. The bulk
of the miners were still 15 miles away. The following day, President Warren Harding threatened to send in Federal troops and
U.S. Army Martin MB-1 bombers. The Martin bombers officially belonged to the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC), because the U.S.
Air Force (USAF) was not established until September 18, 1947. After a long meeting in the town of Madison, the seat
of Boone County, agreements were made convincing the miners to return home. However, the struggle was far from over. After
spending days to assemble his private army, Chafin was not going to be denied his battle to end union attempts at organizing
Logan County coal mines. Within hours of the Madison decision, reports indicated that Sheriff Chafin's men were deliberately
shooting union sympathizers in the town of Sharples, WV, just north of Blair Mountain -- and that families had been caught
in crossfire during the skirmishes. Infuriated, the miners turned back towards Blair Mountain, many traveling in other stolen
and commandeered trains.
By August 29, battle was fully joined. Chafin's men, though outnumbered, had the advantage of higher positions
and better weaponry. Private planes were hired to drop homemade bombs on the miners. On orders from the famous General Billy
Mitchell, U.S. Army bombers from Maryland were also used to disperse the miners, a rare example of air power being used
by the Federal government against U.S. citizens. A combination of gas and explosive bombs left over from the fighting in World
War I were dropped in several locations near the towns of Jeffery, Sharples and Blair. At least one did not explode and was
recovered by the miners; it was used months later to great effect during treason and murder trials following the battle. Sporadic
gun battles continued for a week, with the miners at one time nearly breaking through to the town of Logan and their target
destinations, the non-unionized counties to the south, Logan and Mingo. Up to 30 deaths were reported by Chafin’s side
and 50-100 on the union miners side, with many hundreds more injured. By September 2, Federal troops had arrived. Realizing
he would lose a lot of good miners if the battle continued with the military, union leader Bill Blizzard passed the word for
the miners to start heading home the following day. Miners fearing jail and confiscation of their guns found clever ways to
hide rifles and hand guns in the woods before leaving Logan County. Collectors and researchers to this day are still finding
weapons and ammunition embedded in old trees and in rock crevices. Thousands of spent
and live cartridges have made it into private collections.
Following the battle, 985 miners
were indicted for "murder, conspiracy to commit murder, accessory to murder, and treason against the State of West
Virginia." Though some were acquitted by sympathetic juries, many were also imprisoned for a number of years, though they
were paroled in 1925. It would be Bill Blizzard's trial where the unexploded bomb was used as evidence of the government and
companies' brutality, and ultimately resulted in his acquittal.
Short term, the battle seemed to be an overwhelming victory for management,
and UMWA membership plummeted from more than 50,000 miners to approximately 10,000 over the next several years. Not until
1935 did the UMW fully organize in southern West Virginia, after the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In the long-term, the battle raised awareness of the appalling conditions
faced by miners in the dangerous West Virginia coalfields, and led directly to a change in union tactics into political battles
to get the law on labor's side via confrontations with recalcitrant and abusive managements and thence to the much larger
organized labor victory a few years later during the New Deal in 1933. That in turn led to the UMWA helping organize many
better-known unions such as the Steel workers and Teamster's during the mid-thirties.
In the final analysis, management's success was a Pyrrhic victory that
helped lead to a much larger and stronger organized labor movement in many other industries and labor union affiliations and
umbrella organizations like the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The Battle
of Blair Mountain was an important part of the labor movement. See also What is a Hillbilly? Definition and History.
Sources are listed below.
Reading: The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks, and White Trash Became America's Scapegoats. Description: Culture
maverick Jim Goad presents a thoroughly reasoned, darkly funny, and rampagingly angry defense of America's most maligned social group -- the cultural clan variously referred to
as rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, crackers, and trailer trash. As The Redneck Manifesto boldly points out and brilliantly
demonstrates, America's dirty little secret
isn't racism but classism. While pouncing incessantly on racial themes, most major media are silent about America's widening class rifts, a problem that negatively
affects more people of all colors than does racism. With an unmatched ability for rubbing salt in cultural wounds, Jim Goad
deftly dismantles most popular American notions about race and culture and takes a sledgehammer to our delicate glass-blown
popular conceptions of government, religion, media, and history. Continued below...
In a book that is destined
to be praised, reviled, cited, denounced, loved, and hated -- perhaps by the same reader -- culture maverick Jim Goad presents
a thoroughly reasoned, darkly funny, and rampagingly angry defense of America's most maligned social group -- the cultural
clan variously referred to as rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, crackers, and trailer trash (provided they're white trailer
trash, of course).
As The Redneck Manifesto
boldly points out and brilliantly demonstrates, America's dirty little secret isn't
racism, but classism. While pouncing incessantly on racial themes, most major media are silent about America's widening class rifts, a problem which negatively affects more people
of all colors than does racism. In a nation obsessed with race, this book switches the focus firmly back toward class, and
it warns in a voice loud and clear that America
will never learn the true meaning of tolerance until it learns to embrace the redneck.
Until this book, no one
has so fully explained why white trash exists in America.
Tracing the unique historical diaspora of America's white poor, The Redneck
Manifesto offers evidence that mass forceful deportations of white slaves and convict laborers from the British Isles formed
the bulk of America's white underclass.
Tracing the history of these people, the book probes the hidden cultural meanings behind jokes about inbreeding and bestiality.
It gets its hands dirty with blue-collar frustration, recreational desperation, and religious salvation. It discusses the
value of Elvis, Bigfoot, and space aliens as objects of spiritual veneration. It offers solid logical defenses of tax protest,
gun ownership, and antigovernment "hate speech." And it lists surprising reasons for why rednecks and blacks have more in
common with each other than either group does with white liberals.
With an unmatched ability
for rubbing salt in cultural wounds, Jim Goad deftly dismantles most popular American notions about race and culture and takes
a sledgehammer to our delicate glass-blown popular conceptions of government, religion, media, and history. His own socioeconomic
background leads him to prefer crackers over slackers, hillbillies over hipsters, and white trash over white cash. He is certain
that the trailer park holds more honest people than the House of Representatives, and he knows from personal experience that
truck drivers are more trustworthy than lawyers.
You've not read another
book like The Redneck Manifesto because there are no other books like it. It's the sort of book that comes along once in a
lifetime, which will be too often for some people. It's a rude awakening for a spazzed-out nation. A fire under the ass of
a culturally confused country. A literary laxative for a constipated public. It's destined to prick the conscience of a nation
which enjoys feeling guilty, but which doesn't like to do anything about it. You'll laugh, and then you'll hate yourself for
laughing. Your mind will be pried open but it'll only hurt a little while. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable
edition of this title.
the Author: Jim Goad himself a proud member of The White Trash Nation, was the creator
and chief writer for ANSWER Me!, a controversial "zine" that he used to publish in Los
Angeles. He does not presently live in a trailer park but is thinking about it. The Redneck Manifesto
is his first book.
NEW! Highly Recommended Viewing: Hillbilly:
The Real Story (2008) (The History
Channel). Description: Join host Billy Ray Cyrus on a journey into the
hollers and runs of Appalachia to discover the proud legacy of the region's mountain folk. Learn how hillbillies,
long misunderstood and maligned as isolated and backward, actually have a 300-year history of achievement and success that
has contributed significantly to our national identity. In this two-hour special you'll meet outcast immigrants, war heroes,
isolated backwoodsmen, hard working miners, fast moving moon shiners, religious warriors, musicians and statesmen. You
will also learn about the dramatic history and origin of the real Redneck as well as the history and founders of NASCAR. Continued below...
of their contributions, which include establishing the first labor unions, battling the British, and spawning some of the
most popular aspects of American culture today, like NASCAR and country music. And you'll see them in a whole new light. “The numerous candid interviews highlight this outstanding addition. Great gift,
must have, welcome addition to the American collection..."
Sources: Abbey, Edward.
"In Defense of the Redneck", from Abbey's Road: Take the Other. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979; Goad, Jim. The Redneck Manifesto:
How Hillbillies, Hicks, and White Trash Became America's Scapegoats, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997; Webb, James H. Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. New York:
Broadway Books, 2004; Weston, Ruth D. "The Redneck Hero in the Postmodern World", South
Carolina Review, Spring 1993; Wilson, Charles
R. and William Ferris, eds. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, 1989; Blizzard, William C. When Miners March Gay, WV,: Appalachian Community Press, 2005; Ross Ballard
When Miner March - The Battle of Blair Mountain audiobook; Corbin, David, ed. The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology. 2nd
ed. Martinsburg, W.Va.: Appalachian
Editions, 1998; Lee, Howard B. Bloodletting in Appalachia: The Story of West Virginia's Four Major Mine Wars and Other Thrilling
Incidents of Its Coal Fields. Morgantown, W.Va.: West Virginia University
Press, 1969; Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia
Mine War, 1920-21. Pittsburgh: University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1990; Shogan, Robert. The Battle
of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Union Uprising. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2004.