UMass Boston

James Green Life & Work

The late James Green (1944-2016) was an historian and the author of six books on American labor and radical movements, including Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America. His last book, The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia's Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom, inspired a 2016 PBS documentary, The Mine Wars.


From 1977 to 2014, Jim was a professor first of labor studies, then of history at UMass Boston. He created and directed the Labor Studies Program in 1981 and the Labor Resource Center in 1995, and in 2008, left the College of Public and Community Service to create and direct the graduate program in public history for UMass Boston's History Department. (Correspondence, documents, proposals, memos related to Jim's administrative work for the LRC are available from the University Archives and Special Collections Department within UMass Boston's Joseph P. Healey Library, as are research materials related to Jim’s published books, work related to his contributions to documentary films, essays, published articles, book reviews, public addresses, political speeches, papers presented, and correspondence with scholars and colleagues.)

Jim was involved in a number of community and labor support activities, including community-based history workshops on Massachusetts with retired Lynn shoe workers, Lawrence textile workers; commemorative activities like the one in Boston's Faneuil Hall where local union members who gathered in 1986 to mark the 100th anniversary of the May 1 eight hour strikes, documentary films like The Great Depression series aired on the Public Broadcasting System in 1993, and preservation efforts, like the successful attempt to win National Landmark status for the restored monument to the victims of the 1914 Ludlow massacre in Colorado. Jim served as president of the Labor and Working Class History Association from 2002-2004, and in 2009 he received the Sol Stetin Labor History Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation. On November 5, 2015, at the relaunch of the Labor Studies Program and the Labor Resource Center, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh proclaimed November 5 “James Green Day” in the City of Boston.



The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia's Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom, New York: Grove-Atlantic, 2015.

Read an excerpt from The Devil Is Here in These Hills.
Listen to James Green talk to NPR about The Devil Is Here in These Hills.
The Mine Wars, based on the book, aired on PBS in January 2016.


"The story James Green has to tell is among the best and largely forgotten American stories. It's about property rights versus human rights, about hard men and women and about violent conflict. It's a tale about a working-class insurgency that's as piney as an Appalachian ballad."
The New York Times


Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America, New York: Pantheon Books, Random House, 2006.

In 2007, The Wall Street Journal said James Green was the author of one of the five best books showing terror in America from another era.
Listen to Jim's May Day interview with Democracy Now!
Watch Jim discuss Death in the Haymarket with Howard Zinn.


“No potboiler on the best-seller list. Great narrative GRIP. Rich in character, profound in resonance, shot-through with violence, set in the immigrant neighborhoods, meeting halls, and saloons of the capitol of the American 19th century, here is a Chicago of life part labor-history, part immigrant history, part courtroom drama. James Green's subject is the stuff of tragic drama injustice and betrayal."

– Jack Beatty, Senior Editor, The Atlantic Monthly


Taking History to Heart: The Power of the Past in Building Social Movements, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.

"A major book by a labor historian who has done more than anyone to produce democratic and usable working class history over the last thirty years. Consistently engaged by workers as his students, audience, and fellow activists, Green's history is rigorous and accessible."

– David Roediger

"This book makes a powerful contribution not only to the world of scholarship but also, in the spirit of its theme, to the larger community outside academe."

– Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"Green is one of the most thoughtful and knowledgeable of our labor historians, and a fine writer. This book addresses an urgent and complex issue: the relationship of historians to the public. Green poses a profound challenge to the way most historians work today."

– Jon Wiener

Commonwealth of Toil: Chapters from the History of Massachusetts Workers and their Unions, (co-authored with Tom Juravich and William Hartford) Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.

The World of the Worker: Labor in Twentieth Century America, New York: Hill and Wang, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980. (second edition by University of Illinois Press, 1998)

Boston’s Workers: A Labor History (co-authored with Hugh Carter Donahue), Boston: Boston Public Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1979.

Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895-1943, Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

  •  Listed as one of the best academic books of 1978 by Choice.


James Green writes about the bloody history of West Virginia mine workers: When a federal grand jury recently indicted Donald L. Blankenship for willfully violating safety regulations in order to maximize coal production, it seemed possible that a top corporate executive might finally be held accountable for miners killed on his company’s property.

Additional articles are available through ScholarWorks.