Union to host noted Appalachian historian Dr. William Turner

Published on
February 07, 2017

Perspectives on Appalachia Union College will be hosting renowned Appalachian historian and professor Dr. William Turner for a presentation on February 28 at 7 p.m. Dr. Turner is appearing through a partnership between Union’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Educational Studies Unit. The event is free and open to the entire Union College community.

Dr. Turner will present “Perspectives on Appalachia” in the Patridge Conference Room of the Student Center. Dr. Turner is a Harlan County native and is best known for work in profiling the role of African-Americans in Appalachia. Dr. Turner’s father, and many other family members, were African-American coal miners in Kentucky. A widely published author, Dr. Turner is also noted for his work on the 1984 book: Blacks in Appalachia.

"Dr. Turner’s appearance is a collaboration between two academic departments that combine resources and pursue a common goal, which for us is to showcase and promote the different perspectives that shape local, regional, and national views of Appalachia,” said Dr. Jason Reeves, Dean of Educational Studies, noting he and Dr. Hugo Freund, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, partnered in inviting Dr. Turner to campus. "Giving a public voice and platform to people who bring both multi-faceted experiences and extensive professional knowledge about Appalachia is something Union College is often recognized for.”

For nearly 50 years, Dr. Turner has continually shared knowledge and led in the understanding of Appalachia and its African American population through teaching, publications, lectures, media consulting, mentoring as well as his work at colleges and universities. He has held academic posts at Fisk University, Howard University, Berea College, University of Kentucky and served both as dean and as the interim president of Kentucky State University. He also served as a research associate for Roots author Alex Haley from 1978 to 1991. 

In 1994, Dr. Turner was named Christian Appalachia Project’s Citizen of the Year. Notre Dame named him a Distinguished Alumni Exemplar in 2006 and he was also inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame that year. Other notable awards include being named the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Citizen of the Year in 2007; being issued a lifetime achievement award by the Appalachian Studies Association in 2009 and nominated for a Presidential Appointment as Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Dr. Turner holds degree from the University of Kentucky, Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University and Duke. He is most noted for the expansive writings detailing African-Americans and their multi-faceted roles and struggles throughout Appalachia.

For more information about this event, please contact Dr. Jason Reeves at jreeves@unionky.edu or 606.546.1209.