In the abstract, this near-mythic figure represents bravery, hard work and manliness.
A recent study found the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever recorded among coal miners in central Appalachia. Two doctors who treat black lung patients explain how miners contract it.
Throughout the centuries, a number of coal miners have documented their lives with paintings. Some of their works are now in museums and bring the stories of the "pitmen" back to life.
At society's margins, people without access to the mainstream job economy are able to carve out lives rich in other resources and community.
Coal miners are often romanticized in our society and held up as examples of hard-working Americans who deserve our respect. In reality, many retired miners could get the shaft this Friday.