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Brutal Days Of Coal Strikes Depicted

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)

November 4, 2005 Friday


Joan Hinkemeyer, Special to the News

Every Coloradan possesses at least a nodding acquaintance with Colorado's gold mining history, but most are unaware of coal mining's major - and often violent - role in our state's story. Even the Ludlow Massacre brings only vague recognition.

Slaughter in Serene, a collection of writings by four different authors, relates the brutality inflicted on coal miners seeking improved working conditions and wages at the Columbine Mine near what was then called Serene, Colo., 15 miles north of Denver. The strike also occurred in at least 100 other mines statewide.

Although each author represented - Eric Margolis, Joanna Sampson, Phil Goodstein and Richard Myers - presents a different aspect of the strikes during the late 1920s, all reveal the inhumane treatment of miners whose workloads increased while wages were reduced by greedy mine owners. Miners also paid for their own tools and were required to live in the mine camp with rent paid to the company and purchases made at the company store.

When desperation caused a strike statewide, Gov. Adams ordered the state police to disperse picket lines. Although innocent men were subsequently murdered - there were six deaths at the Columbine Mine, referred to at the time as the "Columbine Massacre," and at least two in Walsenburg - the governor blamed the miners and absolved the state police of wrongdoing.

Each article includes numerous photos and newspaper excerpts, as well as extensive bibliographies, but the book sorely needs a map pinpointing mine locations. Writing styles vary from the highly academic and factual to a narrative reading as smoothly as fiction. Of interest is the chapter on women's roles in the strikes, which completes the picture of this black chapter in our state's history.

Joan Hinkemeyer


Slaughter in Serene: The Columbine Coal Strike Reader

Edited by Lowell May and Richard Myers (Bread and Roses Workers' Cultural Center, $19.05. Readers may order online, at or by calling 303-433-1852). Grade: B


GRAPHIC: Photo, Strikers in Walsenburg stand in front of their union hall, Jan. 12, 1928, after several fellow strikers were shot. The incident was one of many attacks against miners struggling for better working conditions, detailed in the new book, Slaughter in Serene.
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