Hidden Labor History

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How a 1897 Massacre of Pennsylvania Coal Miners Morphed From a Galvanizing Crisis to Forgotten History

by Paul A. Shackel  Zokalo Public Square March 2019/Smithsonian.com 

At the western entrance of the coal patch town of Lattimer, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, sits a rough-cut shale boulder, about eight feet tall, surrounded by neatly trimmed bushes. A bronze pickax and a shovel are attached to the boulder, smaller pieces of coal rest at its base, and an American flag flies high above it.

Locals and union members sometimes refer to the boulder as the “Rock of Remembrance” or the “Rock of Solidarity.” Still others call it the Lattimer Massacre Memorial. It was erected to memorialize immigrant coal miners from Eastern Europe who were killed by local authorities in 1897 when they protested for equal pay and better working conditions. The boulder is adorned with a bronze plaque that describes the massacre and lists the names of the men who died at the site.

What’s most interesting about the memorial is that it was built in 1972. Why did it take 75 years to commemorate the 19 men killed at Lattimer? I’ve devoted close to a decade to understanding how the event is remembered and why it took so long to pay permanent tribute.

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