African Americans used as strikebreakers at the Franklin coal mines starting on May 17, 1891.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 1941

On about May 17, 1891, African Americans arrive at Franklin, Washington, to start working in the Oregon Improvement Company coal mines. The Oregon Improvement Company has recruited them from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee with offers of good paying jobs and free transportation. It is not until the train arrives at Franklin that the black workers realize they are being used as strikebreakers. The white strikers then do as management has planned: They make a racial issue out of an economic one. Franklin is located in southeast King County just north of Black Diamond.

The owners brought in more than 500 strikebreakers. T. B. Corey, the superintendent of mines at Franklin, stated that African American strikebreakers "made the issue one of race between the white and colored miners, and not one of wages or conditions of work between the coal companies and their employees." The white strikers expended more of their wrath on the black workers and less on the coal operators.

After the strike was over, the animosity lasted until 1904 when United Mine Workers Union established an integrated local union in Franklin.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer August 4, 1988, p B-2; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District From 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), 27, 68.

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