BRISTOL, Tenn., Jan. 27, 2022 — King University’s Institute for Faith & Culture (IFC) welcomes Bill Turner, Ph.D., as the 2021-2022 speaking series, “Listen to Your Life,” continues.
Turner is a prominent scholar on the African-American experience in Appalachia. Born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Kentucky, he is the fifth of 10 children. His grandfathers, father, four uncles, and older brother were all coal miners, and he is the author of “The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns,” which offers deeply personal reminiscences of his youth.
He will present two lectures on Monday, Feb. 7. The first, “The Central Appalachian Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,” will be held at 9:15 a.m. at the Memorial Chapel on the campus of King University.
Turner’s second presentation, “The Harlan Renaissance: An Appalachian case study of the diverse Black experience in America,” will be held at 7 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Virginia.
Both lectures are free and open to the public. Guests are requested to observe masking and social distancing guidelines.
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 important cultural ties. Although his work applies to communities across the country, he is best known for his groundbreaking research on African-American communities in Appalachia.
As an academic and consultant, Turner has studied economic systems and social structures in the urban South and burgeoning Latino communities in the Southwest. In addition to writing “The Harlan Renaissance,” he also co-edited the path-breaking textbook, “Blacks in Appalachia,” and his essay on Black Appalachians was published in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Additionally, he served as a research assistant to “Roots” author Alex Haley for a decade.
“As the late author Alex Haley stated, Dr. Turner knows more about Black life and culture in the mountains of the American South than anybody in the world,” said Martin Dotterweich, Ph.D., director of the IFC. “His most recent book demonstrates how Black Appalachians were able to create sustainable communities despite the racism and discrimination that were prevalent during the boom years following World War II and the civil rights era. He has spent more than a half-century working to help the citizens of marginalized communities achieve greater prosperity, understanding, and respect, which is what each of us strives to attain, no matter our economic, cultural or religious roots and beliefs. We welcome Dr. Turner back to King and look forward to his fresh insights on these topics, which remain highly relevant in contemporary culture.”
A Kentucky native, Turner earned a Bachelor of Science in sociology from the University of Kentucky. He received his Master of Arts in sociology and Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology from Notre Dame University, with a focus on racial and ethnic relations and African American studies. Prior to his retirement in 2017, Turner served as Research Scientist Leader at the Prairie View A&M University College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, where he led the collection and analysis of data on underserved Texans, the economically insecure, and the long-term impoverished. He also previously served as the Dean of Arts and Sciences and Interim President at Kentucky State University, the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kentucky, and the Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies and Regional Ambassador at Berea College.
Turner and his wife, Vivian, the retired president of the R.J. Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, live near their children and grandchildren in Houston, Texas.
For more information about the Institute, including the full schedule for the speaker series, visit king.edu/faithandculture.