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As citizens concerned with the faithful representation of America’s rich and often turbulent national history, and as scholars and artists whose work has touched upon the history of coal mining labor in West Virginia and beyond, we write to express our strong opposition to the National Park Service’s de-listing of Blair Mountain as a site of national historic significance, and to support the legal challenge to that decision launched by the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), Friends of Blair Mountain and the West Virginia Labor History Association. Many of us have worked productively with the Park Service in public history and heritage preservation projects in the past, and are hopeful that this mistaken decision can be quickly reversed.
As you are no doubt aware, Blair Mountain is the site of the largest armed insurrection on U.S. soil since the Civil War, and one of the most significant events in American labor history. In 1993 a Congressionally-mandated ‘Labor History Theme Study’ by ten historians for the National Landmarks Program recommended Blair Mountain as a landmark site. Both the site’s importance in our national history and the urgency of adopting energetic measures to preserve it were recognized again in 2006, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated Blair Mountain one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The National Park Service seemed to accept that logic when, in March 2009, it included Blair Mountain in the National Register of Historic Places. We are deeply concerned at the reversal of that decision in the face of pressure from coal companies eager to strip mine the area, and alarmed by very recent reports that mining equipment is already being moved onto the site. We therefore respectfully urge the National Park Service to immediately re-list Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places.