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Exploring Primary Sources: Coal in Kentucky Exercise: Home

This module serves as an introduction to primary source research through investigation and evaluation of documents related to the coal industry in Kentucky.

Photograph of Coal Miner

Typewritten label on back of photograph: "Harry Fain, coal loader, tamping with powder charge prepatory to ignition.", dated 1946. From the Russell Lee: Wheelwright, KY Photographic Collection (University of Kentucky).

Education Graduate Assistant

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Kaylee McMunn
110 M.I. King Library
UK Libraries
Lexington, KY 40506

Request Form

For more information or to schedule an in-person class visit to the Special Collections Research Center, please contact Matthew Strandmark using the button below.

Information for Students

Understanding the social, cultural, and economic impact of the coal industry is crucial to understanding the history of Kentucky and its people. This module explores the historical context and cultural significance of the coal industry in Kentucky through primary sources. 

Each tab contains selected materials and corresponding questions to discuss with your group, but the main focus of this online exercise is for you to investigate and answer questions about primary source materials related to this moment in history. For this exercise, focus on power relationships and silences. Whose voice is heard, and whose voice is missing? Remember that primary sources are coming directly from an individual, created with an intended audience and purpose. As you read through your document and answer these questions, try to put yourself in the shoes of the creator, consumer, and subject of the primary source documents that you see now. 

Resources on Coal Industry and Culture

Lomax Kentucky Recordings

The Lomax Kentucky Recordings project collects the sounds of rural Kentucky through music performed by farmers, coal miners, housewives, and more. Below are links to select recordings of coal and union songs. 

"The Workers Are Uniting" (1937)

"Coal Creek War" (1937)

"I Love Coal Miners, I Do" (1939)

"Coal Creek Disaster" (1939)