Author to speak at Miami Hamilton on Black life in Appalachian coal towns

Miami University Regionals Appalachian Studies presents award-winning historian William H. “Bill” Turner at 7 p.m. Wednesday, in the Harry T. Wilks Conference Center. Turner’s work mines a wealth of previously untold stories to delve into the tapestry of Black Appalachia.

His latest book, “The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns,” won both the 2021 Weatherford Award for Nonfiction and the 2023 Kentucky Historical Society Governor’s Award.

Born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Ky., in Harlan County, Turner’s grandfathers, father, uncles and older brother were coal miners. This investigation of Turner’s childhood and hometown adds depth and complexity to stereotypical understandings of both African American and Appalachian life.

A professor emeritus at Berea College Appalachian Center, Turner holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and both a master’s and Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Notre Dame.

His academic career includes serving as chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Winston-Salem State University, dean of Arts and Sciences and interim president at Kentucky State University, vice president for Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kentucky, Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies and regional ambassador at Berea College, and research scientist leader at the Prairie View A&M University College of Agriculture and Human Sciences.

Turner also served as an adviser to filmmaker Alex Haley on the award-winning film “Roots.”

A public reception will follow Turner’s talk. Miami University Regionals Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is co-sponsoring this free public event. RSVP online at or call 513-785-3277.

The Harry T. Wilks Conference Center is located on the Miami University Regionals’ Hamilton Campus at 1601 University Blvd.

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