Dr. William H. Turner, PhD

Distinguished Professor of Black and Appalachian Studies, Berea College (Retired)

Harlan County, Kentucky native; consultant to non-profits serving marginalized communities; and Director of Education for the Appalachian African American Cultural Center, Bill is the fifth of 10 children, born in 1946 in the coal town of Lynch, Kentucky. His grandfathers, father, four uncles and older brother were coal miners.

Bill 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.

  • Co-edited the path-breaking textbook Blacks in Appalachia and thematic essays on Black Appalachians in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia.
  • Research associate (1979-1991) to Roots author Alex Haley, who said, “Bill knows more about black people in the mountains of the South than anyone in the world.”
  • Chair, Department of Social Sciences, Winston-Salem State University.
  • Center for the Study of Civil Rights & Race Relations, Duke University. Ford Foundation-sponsored post-doctoral fellow. John Hope Franklin, Adviser.
  • Formerly Dean of Arts and Sciences and Interim President, Kentucky State University, Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, University of Kentucky; and, Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies and Regional Ambassador at Berea College.
  • At the time of his retirement in late 2017, Turner was 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 long-term impoverished.

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