Wheeling’s First Labor Heritage Week to Feature Variety of Events

Among the programs planned is one on Wheeling’s Walter Reuther.

WHEELING — A variety of events celebrating the Upper Ohio Valley’s labor and working class heritage are planned for the first Reuther-Pollack Labor Heritage Week to be held Aug. 27 through Sept. 1 at First State Capitol, 1413 Eoff St., and at the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St.

The events are being organized by the Wheeling Academy of Law and Science (WALS) Foundation, through its Reuther-Wheeling Library and Labor History Archive, and the Ohio County Public Library through its adult programming department.

Sponsors include the West Virginia Humanities Council (sponsor of Sept. 1 symposium), Wheeling Heritage and Bishop Whelan Division 1, Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Heritage partners for the events include the Battle of Homestead Foundation, West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, West Virginia Independence Hall Museum and WVU Press.

Labor Heritage Week begins at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at First State Capitol, with the Wheeling premiere of a new documentary, “American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs,” from First Run Features and filmmaker Yale Strom. The film traces the history of American populism, with the man (Debs) who inspired progressive ideas.

At noon Aug. 28, for Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library, Jack Seitz, lead educator at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, will present “A Brief Sketch of West Virginia Labor History in Modern Context or: The Long History of ‘Going West Virginia on You.'”

Also, at 7 p.m. Aug. 28, Lou Martin, associate professor of history at Chatham University in Pittsburgh and founding board member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, will present a special edition of People’s University at the Ohio County Public Library. His presentation will be “Appalachian History and Politics Since the 1970s.”

Labor Heritage Week continues at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at First State Capitol with a free screening of a documentary, “Brothers on the Line.” Narrated by Martin Sheen, “Brothers on the Line” is an award-winning documentary created by Victor Reuther’s grandson, Sasha, that explores the journey of the Reuther brothers (Walter, Roy and Victor) as prolific union organizers from Wheeling.

At noon Aug. 30, for a special edition Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library, Ginny Savage Ayers will discuss her new book, “Never Justice, Never Peace: Mother Jones and the Miner Rebellion at Paint and Cabin Creeks.”

In 1986, Lon Savage published “Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21,” a popular history now considered a classic. When Savage died, he left behind an incomplete book manuscript about a lesser-known Mother Jones crusade in Kanawha County. His daughter, Ginny Savage Ayers, drew on his notes and files, as well as her own original research, to complete “Never Justice, Never Peace,” the first book-length account of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike of 1912-13.

At 7 p.m. Aug. 30, at First State Capitol, Pittsburgh singer-songwriters Tom Breiding, Jason Kendall and Mike Stout will present “Songs of Protest and the Working Class.” For a cover charge (all proceeds go toward event expenses), attendees will hear original compositions, working class ballads and familiar protest songs.

Breiding, a Wheeling native, is musician in residence for the United Mine Workers of America. Kendall’s introspective and melodic songs are influenced by artists like Chet Baker, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Stout is a songwriter of stories about working class heroes.

Heritage Week continues at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at First State Capitol with the Francis Pier-Pint Historic Brew-Off, featuring Travis Henline, Hal Gorby and Ryan Stanton sharing fun facts and mostly true stories about Wheeling’s history and beer history.

Members of the Wheeling Alers home-brewing club will create brews such as Waitman Willey Rye Ale, First State Capital Cream Ale, Augustus Pollack Pale Ale, Arthur Boreman Common Ale, among others.

T-shirts, custom coasters and other merchandise will be available for purchase. An admission ticket buys a commemorative Francis Pier-Pint pint glass and free beer samples. Attendees will vote for their favorite historic brew; the winner will receive a custom trophy. Proceeds benefit educational programming for both the WALS Foundation and the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, partners on this fundraising event.

Reuther-Pollack Labor Heritage Week will conclude with a labor history symposium from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 1. The event will feature presentations from five speakers, including Fordham history professor Steven Stoll, author of “Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia” (a progressive answer to J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy”); Appalachian historian Benjamin Bankhurst of Shepherd University; Kevin Kenny, a Boston College history professor who will speak about the Molly Maguires; Mark Bulik, a senior editor for the New York Times, also discussing the Molly Maguires; and United Auto Worker archivist Gavin Strassel from the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit, the largest labor archive in the United States.

During the lunch break, after a birthday celebration for Walter Reuther with cake and refreshments, symposium attendees will have the opportunity to join a walking tour, led by Dr. David Javersak, to view both the Pollack and Reuther monuments at Heritage Port on the Wheeling riverfront. The event also will feature door prizes, a raffle of a framed photo and autograph of Walter Reuther and a basket of labor history books.

The registration cost for the symposium includes a box lunch. All proceeds go toward event expenses.

To make reservations for the concert, brew-off or the symposium, send an email to spd@walslaw.com or call 304-905-1690.

The Reuther-Pollack Labor History Symposium is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This event is presented in partnership with Wheeling Heritage.

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