Year Published: 1998
Duane Lockard's Coal is at once a historical account of mining--the explosions, slate falls, black lung, and floods--and a memoir of one family's involvement in it. Four generations of his family have worked in the mines, including Lockard himself, and his book interweaves family letters and diaries with firsthand interviews and literature on the industry to evoke a century's worth of mining and coal town life. Entwined in the personal story of this coal miner's son who became a Princeton political scientist is Lockard's critique of how the coal industry has behaved as a corporate citizen and how it exemplifies corporate power in American life.
Although mining conditions are vastly improved from those fifty years ago, the picture Lockard paints is far from positive; he offers a detailed account of how corporations have pursued profits and corporate hegemony at the expense of their workers' health and the natural environment. Although fatalities have fallen to fewer than one hundred per year (as opposed to the thousands of fifty years ago), long-term health and environment problems persist: contaminated streams, polluted air, and the legacy of black lung disease. Just as devastating are the finacial repercussions for coal towns whose seams run dry.
Lockard's observations about the behavior of coal corporations are informed not only by his family's long involvement with mining but also by the analytical tools honed in his distinguished career as a political scientist. In this multi-layered book, he shares with the reader both the immediacy of his own life experiences and the thoughtful results of many decades observing the exercise of corporate power in America.