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1919 Coal Mine Strike / OAMC

December 13, 2000

Historian's Notes

Coal mining played, and continues to play, an important role in the economy of Oklahoma. At one time, thousands of Oklahomans depended on the coal industry for their lives and the lives of their families. The great coal strike of 1919 shows what happens when management becomes too greedy and too far removed from the actual work. The history of labor in Oklahoma is full of such battles of poor, hard working people having to not only struggle for a living, but also forced to fight with management in order to be allowed to do so.

Resources

Sewell, S. (Sum 1997.) Chronicles of Oklahoma, 75, (2).

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's past.

In the Fall of 1919 more than 10,000 Oklahoma coal miners went on strike for higher wages and shorter hours. The striking miners in Oklahoma, mainly in the southeastern section of the state, were part of a nationwide coal strike involving more than 400,000 miners. Although there actually wasn't any, many in Oklahoma including the Governor perceived a radical communist threat in the miners actions. The National Guard was called out and for all basic intents and purposes, many town in south-east Oklahoma were under Marshall Law. With the onset of severe cold and the coal supply dwindling the miners were in a good position to bargain for demands. The Governor at the time J. Robertson authorized a state take over of the mines and utilizing volunteers including students from Oklahoma A&M attempted to provide coal for citizens. The volunteers produced a total of 3,000 tons of coal less than one half of one day of Oklahoma's coal needs. It was in this week in 1919 that cold coal-impoverished negotiators gave in to the miners claims, and instituted a cost of living increase, ended the strike.

Oklahoma State University began its existence as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College. The first classes of the new school were not held on the present day campus but instead in various churches in downtown Stillwater. It was in this week in the year 1891 that the first class of what is now OSU met for the first time. In a one-room frame church the initial class of forty-five, twenty-three women and twenty-two men, enrolled in preparatory classes. After one year of such prep courses the group, now thinned to thirty-seven, began their freshman year of studies with only eleven making it through the second full year.

It was not until 1894, the junior year for this class, that they would be able to hold classes in the then newly completed "Old Central" building. Only six members of that first class graduated; six students all from surrounding farms received their diplomas and gave to Stillwater the beginning of a proud tradition of quality education.

Miners standing up for their rights and students sitting down to their studies this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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