High School Teacher Gives Voice to Miner Ghosts

Thursday, June 19, 2014

High School Teacher Gives Voice to Miner Ghosts(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)Long after Kevin Corley, a high school history teacher from Springfield, Illinois, recorded interviews in the 1980’s with elderly miners and their families for the Abraham Lincoln Historical Museum, those voices haunted him. Eventually, he wove their words into an unpublished novel that he sent around to friends and family. When a copy found its way to Tim Sheard, the working class writer and publisher knew he had an instant classic on his hands. Corley and Sheard discussed Corley's hisotrical novel“Sixteen Tons” with United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts at the AFL-CIO’s June 10 Book Talk. Roberts had clearly read and relished the novel’s gripping story about the coal mine wars and the fight to establish the mine workers’ union, and had a lot of questions and comments to share. Most of the dialogue and nearly all the characters are based on real historical people who lived in the early 20th century, from 1898-1930. Corley and Sheard, the Hard Ball Press publisher, talked about the importance of teaching “real labor history” to American workers and youth, especially how labor activists can encourage schools and libraries, churches and unions to “promote good working class literature that tells the histories not allowed in schools or in the mass media.” Both the author and publisher are now reaching out to labor activists and readers in an effort to build grassroots interest in the historical novel. Click here to see a video of part of Corley’s talk and here for a video of Roberts reading President Rich Trumka's welcoming remarks.


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