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Author’s Book On Black Lung Disease Is Eyed

WHEELING — The Ohio County Public Library’s weekly livestream of its popular Lunch With Books program will feature “Digging Our Own Graves: Coal Miners and the Struggle Over Black Lung Disease” with author Barbara Ellen Smith.

The program takes place from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

This fully updated edition of a classic work from one of the leading scholars of Appalachia documents a community’s struggle against the deadly black lung disease. 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.

This program will be available to watch live on Facebook Live, on YouTube and on the Ohio County Public Library website’s LWB Livestream page. Log into your Facebook or YouTube account during the program to leave questions for Barbara Ellen in the comments box. She will answer them during the live broadcast.

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