May 10, 2023 - The 400 Years of African American History Commission (400YAAHC), a 15-member federally appointed commission established to coordinate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies on August 20, 1619, announced today the release of "Black Coal Miners of Appalachia," the latest episode of its 400 HOUR television program representing Black Excellence and promoting contributions African Americans have made, and continue to make, to this country. 400YAAHC's newest installment will air at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, May 15, 2023 on www.400yaahc.gov and on Facebook @400YAAHC.
"Mining disasters get monuments; black lung deaths get tombstones," said 400YAAHC Commissioner Ron Carson, founder of the Black Lung Disease program at the Stone Mountain Health Clinics and crusader for coal miners' rights to treatment and benefits. "I've seen many a tombstone in the last 28 years from black lung and we're seeing more now."
The special 400 HOUR program will look at the history of African Americans who worked the coal mines and will feature former coal miners diagnosed with coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly known as "black lung disease," or progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), a late-stage chronic form of CWP. Experts on the program include Dr. David Blackely, an epidemiologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Dr. William Turner, author of "The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns; and Howard Berkes, NPR reporter and co-producer of Coal's Deadly Dust.
"When coal mining became a growing industry after the Civil War, companies recruited African Americans to mine coal so the country could have electricity," added Carson. "While coal mining has always been dangerous for all who endeavor in this occupation, it is important nevertheless to highlight that the electricity we sustain even today was built on the hard work and health sacrifices of so many African Americans."
"Our programming is specifically designed to uncover the past so that it can help illuminate a time many would like to forget, and we are grateful for all the experts who have contributed to this important 400 HOUR episode," said Addie L. Richburg, 400YAAHC executive director.