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Dr. William H. Turner: ‘Black people have done lost their stuff’

Dr. William H. Turner said Black History Month is about more than recalling past traumas. (Campbellsville University Photo by Chosalin Morales)

By Chosalin Morales, student news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – “They pull him [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] out every January and March like a groundhog on Groundhog Day. They celebrate him and they stick him back in the hole the next day,” Dr. William H. Turner, writer, professor speaker and consultant, said recently as part of the Black History Month presentation of the Diversity Policy Committee.

Turner spoke in The Gheens Recital Hall in honor of Black History Month.

“When you put this ‘black’ word in, it’s too decisive, so you’re seeing a systematic attempt to whitewash history,” Turner said.

“If you don’t know your history, you won’t know who you are, where you are or what you are about. That’s why people work so hard systematically from keeping Black people knowing their history,” he said.

Turner said history is like a clock. History tells you where you are politically and culturally. History left us to find ourselves in a human geography he said.

In 1985, Turner wrote his book, “Blacks in Appalachia” which were available for pre-order after his presentation.

“Black people have done lost their stuff,” Turner said. ‘Stuff’ such as languages, the way we communicate, culture and relationship with one another.

“I wrote this book because I hope someone is writing about Black life in Taylor County. A lot of Black role models don’t live in their neighborhoods anymore, so children grow up with the lack of mentors and role models to look up to.

“I also wrote my book because there’s a lot of unmistakable evidence that I found, that despite all the stereotypes about how ignorant we are supposed to be in Harlan County, I wanted to show that I grew up with some exceptionally and brilliant people.”

Turner said, “Black history is much more than recalling traumas. Black History Month is about love, legacy, kinship, care and more.”

Turner’s commitment to both activism and scholarship shines throughout his career. In 2007, Turner was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame followed by his recognition in 2008 as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Citizen of the Year Award.

He was recognized in 2009 by the Appalachian Studies Association for a lifetime of service to the Appalachian region.

Turner has received the 2021 Mountain Heritage Award. His new book, “The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black life in Appalachian Cold Towns,” won the 2021 Weatherford Award for best illuminating “the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.”

The book has also been nominated for the Book of the Year Award by the Museum of African American History.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.