In 1922, Friends Drew Pearson and Walter Abel visited West Virginia in response to appeals for emergency relief. AFSC was young—barely five years old—but it had already amassed an impressive record in relieving human suffering.
The results of their investigation were published in an AFSC pamphlet titled Personality and Coal in West Virginia. They reported that "We are satisfied by our investigations that there is widespread destitution, and much need of relief, among the families of the miners.”
West Virginia Economic Justice Project program coordinator Beth Spence began working for AFSC in WV in 2002, but her connection goes back decades farther. A Logan, WV native and longtime collaborator with the AFSC program there, she did pioneering work on rural homelessness. She also helped the new Economic Justice Project get started in 1989.
The worst mine disaster in 40 years occurred on April 5, 2010, when 29 miners lost their lives at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Shortly after the tragedy, West Virginia’s governor appointed an independent investigation panel which included AFSC staffer Beth Spence. She served in a similar capacity in 2006 following the Sago mine collapse and brought her experience and journalistic skills to the new report issued on May 19, 2011.
Carrying enlarged photographs of their lost loved ones, family members of three of the 29 miners killed in the 2010 explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine spent June 6-7 in Washington, D.C., pleading with lawmakers to take action to improve mine safety and to stiffen penalties for mining companies that knowingly, willingly, and recklessly place miners’ lives at risk.
On December 6, US Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that the federal government and Alpha Natural Resources have reached a settlement in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, including $210 million in fines and required safety improvements.
The American Friends Service Committee/SERO and Paul Hays of Appalshop Film and Video (Appalshop.org) present 2 documentaries.
Fightin For A Breath - A documentary about "Black Lung". Caused by poor safety standards and lack of safety equipment this fim examines the history of the movement to compensate for black lung and airs archival footage of the United Mine Workers of America organizing against Black Lung. Footage also includes "Black Lung" victims being treated ar a "Black Lung" Clinic. Aired on Kentucky Public Television in the 2000s.
The MARStar newsletter is published by the Middle Atlantic Region of the American Friends Service Committee. This issue explores conversations about race that staff members are having throughout the region. It also includes a letter from our new Interim Regional Director, Nina Laboy.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.