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S. L. Gardner

coal miner who wrote the first published memoir of an African American coal miner, was born Robert Lee Armstead in Watson, West Virginia, to Queen Esther Armstead and James Henry Armstead. James worked in Alabama and West Virginia coal mines for fifty years. Bob received his formal education in all‐black schools. The eighth of eleven children born and reared in coal camps, he learned early on that the family's well‐being depended on his parents' extraordinary ability to feed and clothe so many on his father's meager income. His religious mother and authoritarian father instilled in their children a strong sense of responsibility, dedication to the family, and solid work ethic.

In 1929 when Bob was two years old the family moved to Grays Flats a segregated coal camp on the edge of Grant Town West Virginia In the late 1920s the Grant Town mine employed 2 200 men ...

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Charles Rosenberg

coal miner, leading organizer of the Black Lung Association, and officer of the United Mine Workers of America, was born near South Boston, Virginia, the son of Charles and Cora Jackson Daniel. Charles Daniel worked in a sawmill early in his marriage, then worked his own farm in the Birch Creek District of Halifax County. Levi’s older siblings included George, Charles Jr., Evzy, and Willie. Census records indicate that Levi may have been the youngest Daniel child. George C. Daniel, the children’s paternal grandfather, also lived with the family during Levi’s youth. Nothing has been published, and little found in public records, to show when, or how many of, the Daniel family moved to Raleigh County, West Virginia. In 1942 Charles Daniel was employed by the McAlpin Coal Company, and he listed his daughter Dorothy Daniel Warren on a World War II draft registration card as a ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Nehemiah James in Yazoo County, outside Bentonia, Mississippi, the son of Eddie James and Phyllis Jones. His father, reputed to be a musician and a bootlegger, moved north to Sidon, near Greenwood, to evade the law, leaving Skip with his mother on the Woodbine plantation, where she worked as a cook. After an attempt to reunite the family in Sidon failed, Skip and his mother returned to Bentonia, where he attended St. Paul School and Yazoo High School. At the age of eight or nine, inspired by local musicians—particularly the guitarist Henry Stuckey—Skip persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar. At the age of twelve he took one piano lesson from a cousin. Unable to pay for more lessons, he continued learning on an organ owned by an aunt.

After dropping out of high school at about age fifteen James went to ...