It is 1890 when two boys stand on a steamship deck and stare in awe at the New York City skyline. Simon Walsh is traveling with his parents, Josiah and Sarah, to Chicago, where his father plans to help operate a family grocery store. Steven Richards is journeying with his sister, Martha, and his parents, John and Elizabeth, to Coal City, Pennsylvania, where his father plans to work in the coal mines. As the steamship docks and the families share a tearful farewell, Simon and Steven can barely contain their excitement. Their new life in America has just begun.
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After the Richards family arrives in Coal City, they soon wonder if they have made the right decision. They settle into a filthy house, where life proves to be more of a struggle than they ever imagined—and apparently, they are not alone. As Elizabeth exchanges letters with Sarah she discovers that the Walsh family is undergoing hardships as well. But when John perishes in a cave-in, Elizabeth cuts off communication with the Walsh family, leaving everyone to wonder if the two families will ever reunite again.
Coal Dust Is White follows three generations of two brave families who arrive in America with lofty dreams and soon learn through forgiveness and atonement that it is always better to do the right thing.