SIUC students and faculty exhibit displayed in nation’s capital

By Gus Bode

SIUC students and faculty exhibit displayed in nation’s capital

A photo exhibit on black coal miners displayed in Washington D.C. during Black History Month

William Olney, pastor of Harvest Deliverance Church in Harrisburg, worked in coalmines for 21 years and was the first black man to be president for a local miners union.


He made enemies when he did not allow miners to go under ground if they were drunk or under the influence of drugs.

He dealt with racism toward him and racism among miners working in southern Illinois.

And he got to share his story in Washington, D.C. as part of an exhibit that has allowed people all over the nation to see the coal mining culture of southern Illinois.

Olney, along with other contributors to the exhibit, entitled “Working in the Seams:An Initial Photographic View Into the African American Coal Culture of Southern Illinois,” attended an opening ceremony for the project at Sidney Yates Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

The documentary features 26 large prints along with text that tell the stories of the people in the photographs and was created by graduate students and a professor at SIUC.

Several of the photographers, writers and other people, who contributed to the project, presented the exhibit to an audience of around 100 people.

Lee M. Buchsman, a master’s student in photography, Eric Robinson, an unclassified master’s student and Joshua Sanseri, a master’s student in art and design, attended the event with Corene McDaniel, president of the African-American Museum in University Mall, Daniel Overturf, associate professor of cinema and photography and Olney Williams, a subject in one of the photographs.


Buchsbaum began the documentary on coal mining three years ago and received a $10,000 grant from Illinois Humanities Council to examine the coal culture of southern Illinois.

SIUC student, Robert Booker, an unclassified graduate student, and Deidre L. Hughes, a doctoral student in history, also contributed to the project that will be exhibited at many other sites after Washington, D.C.

The other sites include, the University of West Virginia’s Senator Rush D. Holt History Conference, Sparta’s public library; Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, the Du Quoin State Fair, VSB Technical University in the Czech Republic, Illinois’s Capital Rotunda in Springfield, Chicago’s Thompson Center, John A. Logan College and several other institutions.

Buchsman said they are glad to have their exhibit in Washington, D.C. during Black History Month so that legislators and other powerful figures can see and hear from people of southern Illinois.

“We wanted these people to be represented in Washington, D.C.,” Buchsman said. “They can have their stories out there so people can hear about us in southern Illinois and our people.”

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]