Eastern Kentucky author comes to HCTC for diversity talk

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Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 9:52 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Dr. William H. Turner’s tour of diversity all began with an invitation from the Kentucky System of Community Colleges.

“They have arranged for me to speak at virtually all 16 of these colleges about my book because they know that my life, my experience, my journey is like a lot of their students,” Dr. Turner said.

Dr. Turner is a Harlan County native, the fifth of 10 children born to a mining family in the town of Lynch. His book, “The Harlan Renaissance,” details the lives of African Americans in Appalachia’s coal mining towns during the early 20th century.

He said that he is looking to shed new light on what life was like in the region during those times.

“We could go throughout Perry County, Letcher County, Bell County, Harlan County, name the coal counties in Eastern Kentucky and the presence of people of African descent goes way way back,” Dr. Turner said.

When speaking with WYMT, Dr. Turner emphasized that some do not remember Eastern Kentucky’s diversity because many people left for larger cities.

“They go to Lexington, they go to Louisville, they go to Dayton, they go to Columbus, they go to those same places a lot of their grandpas left as they say,” Dr. Turner said. “The only problem about it, when they get to those places they find themselves in diverse ethnic situations.”

He is hopeful that his book and talks such as the one he hosted at Hazard Community and Technical College on Tuesday can help change that reality.

“We need to do more it inform those kids that well, back in the day in the 50′s, in the 40′s, in the 30′s, in the 20′s, all the way back to the turn of the 20th century, that where they lived used to be a much more diverse place,” Dr. Turner said.

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