The Herrin Massacre

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On June 21-22 1922 coal miners had a strike near Herrin in southern Illinois erupted in deadly violence. This is known as the Herrin Massacre. Herrin is a city in Williamson County Illinois. The Herrin Massacre was the peak of years of violence in the Illinois coalfields in general and in those of Franklin and Williamson Counties in particular. Violent encounters between armed strikers and strikebreakers had produced fatalities in the central-southern Illinois coalfields in Pana and Virden in 1899. In September 1899 in two separate incidents, five strikebreakers a strike breaker’s wife were killed by armed strikers in Carterville. In 1904-1905 strikebreakers in the company town of Zeigler were blocked by hundreds of armed miners. The employers…show more content…
Following the previous strikes in 1919, the 1922 national strike was a bitter conflict. Broad support for the strike expressed Illinois miners' frustration with the cooperation of their union with employers and the government during World War I and efforts to preserve this cooperation into the postwar era. Local mining officials were on the defensive and anxious to defend their militant reputation. Local officials of UMWA District 12 agreed to let the owner of the SICC, William J. Lester, to open a strip mine in Williamson County during the 1922 strike with the condition that he could not load or ship the coal to sell until the strike was over. Giving employment to a few miners when many thousands of miners were on strike was a controversial policy. Allegations of corruption arose after the massacre and are shouldn’t be forgotten, but the local officials' deal with the SICC was well known. Unfortunately, as the strike wore on, Lester found himself hard pressed to pay debts from his start-up costs—and this was at a time when he was accumulating large quantities of coal that could be sold for high prices. On 13 June 1922 Lester fired his UMWA workers and announced that he would run the mine with cheaper workers from the Steam Shovelman’s…show more content…
The strikebreakers' better aim had made their position much worse. Embattled strikebreakers and mine police killed one of the miners and fatally wounded another, but their supplies began to run out. Finally, under great pressure, Lester accepted a truce, agreeing not to export coal; in exchange, the embattled strikebreakers would be allowed to depart. While state authorities in the person of Colonel Hunter were reassured by the truce, little attention was given to the actual details of the surrender. Under the most charitable interpretation, local UMWA officials made only halfhearted efforts to oversee the

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