These 5 books about black lung disease include nonfiction and fiction books about Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis (black lung disease), an occupational lung disease most common among coal workers, which occurs when coal dust is inhaled, scars the lungs, and impairs one’s ability to breathe. Learn about this devastating disease, the fight of coal workers’ rights, and Big Coal’s cover-up with these books about black lung disease.
1. Digging Our Own Graves by Barbara Ellen Smith
“Employment and production in the Appalachian coal industry have plummeted over recent decades. But the lethal black lung disease, once thought to be near-eliminated, affects miners at rates never before recorded.
“Digging Our Own Graves sets this epidemic in the context of the brutal assault, begun in the 1980s and continued since, on the United Mine Workers of America and the collective power of rank-and-file coal miners in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields. This destruction of militancy and working class power reveals the unacknowledged social and political roots of a health crisis that is still barely acknowledged by the state and coal industry.
“Barbara Ellen Smith ‘s essential study, now with an updated introduction and conclusion, charts the struggles of miners and their families from the birth of the Black Lung Movement in 1968 to the present-day importance of demands for environmental justice through proposals like the Green New Deal. Through extensive interviews with participants and her own experiences as an activist, the author provides a vivid portrait of communities struggling for survival against the corporate extraction of labor, mineral wealth, and the very breath of those it sends to dig their own graves.”
2. Black Lung: Anatomy of a Public Health Disaster by Alan Derickson
“An extraordinary work of scholarship, Black Lung exposes the enormous human cost of producing the energy source responsible for making the United States the world’s preeminent industrial nation. The book also provides a stark warning about the risks of ignoring or denying the existence of an occupational disease. Americans today are paying dearly for the decades when black lung was not recognized: compensation to disabled miners and their families has cost more than thirty billion dollars thus far. More important, society’s denial of the dangers of coal mine dust shortened and impoverished the lives of miners, who today are too often breathless and displaced, destroyed by their work.”
3. The Devil in the Dust by John E. Espy
“As miners in hard hats swing pick axes miles underground, the Devil comes calling disguised as a black dust. The dirty soot penetrates deep into the miners’ lungs. Then, after years of suffering and torture, the Devil claims each victim. Such is the fate of the coal miner. Not one, not two, but thousands of men suffer the fate of black lung disease.
“Lied to for a century by the coal companies, pursued by cowardly goons, and unscrupulous doctors, as the tragedy continues in the name of profit, three physicians dare to put their reputations, and at times their lives, on the line to expose the plight of the miners. They try to discover ways of diagnosing black lung disease that can’t be dismissed or shamed by the coal companies or their physician cronies.
“The Devil in the Dust is a story about courage, not only of the physicians confronting the coal companies and their stooges, but the courage of the coal miners to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, in this stand-alone novel that also continues the stories of those first started in The Sugar Maple Grove.”
4. Fire In The Hole: Miners and Managers in the American Coal Industry Miners by Curtis Seltzer
Throughout the coal industry’s two-hundred-year history, labor issues have dominated its economics and politics. Curtis Seltzer has written a comprehensive historical- analysis of labor relations in the American coal industry-the first since the 1930s.
5. Soul Full of Coal Dust: A Fight for Breath and Justice in Appalachia by Chris Hamby
“In a devastating and urgent work of investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hamby uncovers the tragic resurgence of black lung disease in Appalachia, its Big Coal cover-up, and the resilient mining communities who refuse to back down.”
Related: 10 Must-Read Books About Coal Miners
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