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Afro-Americans in Mining Picture
An ex-slave miner in southern West Virginia, at age 90
(ca. 1921)
Picture Courtesy of
James T. Laing
During the Civil War, the twenty-two leading coal companies of eastern Virginia either hired or owned 1,847 hands, mostly slaves. Slaves worked Alabama mines as early as 1840. To encourage coal production, the Confederate government enacted legislation in 1861 exempting from field service any operator who contracted to mine coal with at least twenty slaves.