The Harlan Renaissance: a Memoir of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns [Video]
William H. Turner is a sociologist and anthropologist and the author of the acclaimed book, The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns, winner of the Weatherford Award for Nonfiction. Turner, the fifth of ten children, was born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Kentucky, in Harlan County. His grandfathers, his father, four uncles and an older brother were coal miners.
After completing a sociology degree at the University of Kentucky, Bill Turner went on to earn a Masters in Sociology and the PhD in Sociology and Anthropology from Notre Dame University, before pursuing post-doctoral studies at both the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University.
Turner has spent his professional career studying and working on behalf of marginalized communities, helping them create opportunities in the larger world while not abandoning their important cultural ties. He is best-known for his ground-breaking research on African-American communities in Appalachia, but Bill’s work is universal. As an academic and a consultant, he has studied economic systems and social structures in the urban South and burgeoning Latino communities in the Southwest. What he strives for on behalf of his clients and their communities is what we all want: prosperity, understanding and respect.
In addition to co-editing the groundbreaking textbook, Blacks in Appalachia, Turner has contributed essays on Black Appalachians to the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia.
Among his many academic position, Dr. Turner served as Chair of Social Sciences at Winston-Salem University, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Interim President at Kentucky State, Vice President for Multicultural Affairs at UK, and Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies and Regional Ambassador at Berea College. From 1979-91, he was a research assistant to Roots author Alex Haley, who said, “Bill knows more about black people in the mountains of the South than anyone in the world.”
Turner’s many awards and recognitions include induction into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, the University of Kentucky Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, a lifetime service award from the Appalachian Studies Association and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Citizen of the Year Award.
Black History Month Keynote
Part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series: INTER/ACTION(S) (2022-2023)
Turner, William H., "The Harlan Renaissance: a Memoir of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns [Video]" (2023). Chautauqua Lecture Videos. 32.
Copyright 2023 William H. Turner