William Sturkey

William Sturkey stands in front of a brick building. He is wearing glasses, a tan blazer, and navy tie and pants.

Associate Professor of History

306C College Hall

William Sturkey is an historian of the United States who specializes in the history of race in the American South since 1865. He is an innovative narrative historian who employs a variety of methodologies in social, economic, diplomatic, and narrative history. Most of his research focuses on the experiences of working-class racial minorities living in the United States. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Modern American History, African American History, Southern History, and Historical research methods and writing.

Dr. Sturkey’s first book, To Write in the Light of Freedom: The Newspapers of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools, is a co-edited collection of newspapers, essays, and poems produced by African American Freedom School students during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. This was the first book ever published to feature the writings of young activists who attended the famous Mississippi Freedom Schools. It makes major contributions to the History of Education, the History of the Civil Rights Movement, and African American History.

Professor Sturkey’s second book, Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White, is a biracial history that traces the rise-and-fall of Jim Crow through the racial and economic history of a single Southern city between 1880 and 1966. Hattiesburg alternates between Black and White perspectives across time, showing how the political and economic changes embedded in modern American life affected the lives of White and Black residents of a quintessential Southern town. After publishing Hattiesburg, Dr. Sturkey wrote an article in The Atlantic detailing the exciting research methods available to modern historians of the African American experience.

Sturkey’s third book, The Ballad of Roy Benavidez: The Life and Times of America’s Most Famous Hispanic Veteran, offers a new history of twentieth century America through the biography of Roy Benavidez, a poor orphaned Hispanic farmworker who became the nation’s most widely celebrated Hispanic veteran. Like his other books, Sturkey’s The Ballad of Roy Benavidez highlights the lives of marginalized groups who made great contributions to the American Century.

Sturkey is currently working on two major book projects. The first, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, is a narrative history of the 1960s that is under contract with Basic Books. The second is a history of the National Negro Business League between 1900 and 1945. In addition to these book projects, Dr. Sturkey has also published peer reviewed essays in The Journal of African American History, Southern Cultures, The Journal of the Civil War Era, and The Journal of Mississippi History.

Dr. Sturkey teaches a variety of courses, including America in the Sixties, the History of the Civil Rights Movement, and graduate courses in American History and African American History. He is an experienced and decorated instructor who has won numerous awards for classroom instruction. His courses, whether lectures or seminars, seek to empower students to use History to better understand their society. He regularly guest lectures in venues across the country, ranging from civic groups to colleges to K-12 classrooms. Sturkey is also an ardent supporter of K-12 teachers and has participated in numerous K-12 workshops, including those sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Beyond his scholarship and teaching, Dr. Sturkey is a deeply engaged public scholar. His writing has appeared in a variety of popular venues, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Washington Post, and he is a regular public speaker and moderator for a variety of public-facing events, including author interviews, public panels, museum exhibitions, podcasts, and more.

Dr. Sturkey is currently seeking graduate advisees in African American and Southern History. While he cannot interview all prospective applicants before they submit their applications, Dr. Sturkey encourages those interested in pursuing their PhD at Penn History to e-mail with a note of introduction.

Office Hours
T, R 11am-12:30pm

BA The Ohio State University
MA University of Wisconsin-Madison
PhD The Ohio State University

Courses Taught

HIST 1179  Precious Lord, Take My Hand: America in the Sixties

Selected Publications




Africana Studies