Skip to Main Content

Exploring Primary Sources: Coal in Kentucky Exercise

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

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. 

You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at

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.