About the Writing

About Black Days, Black Dust

Excerpt from BDBD

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24 Chapters


Black Days, Black Dust, set in the northern
West Virginia coalfields, is the first published memoir of an African American coal miner
Bob Armstead shared his fascinating life story with S.L. Gardner.

University of Tennessee Press, 2002

Robert Armstead and I worked seventeen months on Black Days, Black Dust: The Memories of an African American Coal Miner. When I met Bob in 1997, he had fifty-two handwritten pages. From that core and a discussion of what Bob wanted to accomplish, we set to work. He continued writing. I typed and organized. Next step, dig in for details. Hours at his kitchen table, on his front porch, or on the telephone. Transcribe tapes. Don't ask! During the last year, I also met monthly with my friend and editor, Teresa Hearl. She shared the vision of preserving Bob's words and voice. We struggled with wordsmithing but never lost focus: make every paragraph flow. Finished, revised, polished, find a publisher. Then that fateful call--January 25, 2001--The University of Tennessee Press said, "Yes!"