Scholar of African American history in West Virginia to deliver public lecture at Marshall University

JoeWilliamTrotterDr. Joe William Trotter, a prominent scholar and native West Virginian, will speak at Marshall Tuesday, March 10, on the topic “Coal, Class, and Color: The African American History of the Southern American Coalfields.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. at Foundation Hall, home of the Erickson Alumni Center.

“African Americans were involved in every aspect of West Virginia’s mining history,” said Dr. David Trowbridge, associate professor of history and director of African and African American Studies.  “African Americans worked in salt mines, cleared timber, and built rail tunnels and tracks. Near the peak of the Great Migration that saw millions of African Americans leave the South, nearly 115,000 African Americans lived in West Virginia. Stories about black folk heroes such as John Henry remind us of the contribution of African Americans in building the state’s infrastructure.”

Trowbridge added that little is known about the black families who stayed in the region, or those who migrated to the coal fields in the early 1900s. Trotter’s research does more than simply fill a historical void; it addresses questions related to race, labor and social class. Trotter’s work demonstrates how mine operators attempted to derail union organizers and divide workers along lines of ethnicity and race. It explores moments when racial hatred led to great tragedy. It also provides examples of solidarity and interracial cooperation between miners.

“Above all else, Dr. Trotter’s work restores West Virginia’s black heritage and preserves the history of the state’s black communities and institutions,” Trowbridge said.

Trotter is the Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He also is director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE), founded in 1995. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1980.

The event is sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Affairs, College of Liberal Arts and Department of History. For further information, contact Trowbridge by e-mail at