William Sturkey

Portrait of William Sturkey
Image Credit: Merritt Chesson

William Sturkey is an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Dr. Sturkey teaches courses in modern American history with a focus on race in the South and the 1960s. He is the author of Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White and the co-editor of To Write in the Light of Freedom: The Newspapers of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools. Sturkey is currently writing a biography of Vietnam War hero Roy Benavidez. He is an engaging public speaker and author who has published essays or op-eds in a variety of venues including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Many are familiar with the case of Emmett Till, but few understand the historical importance of the town that helped make the case famous. It wasn’t a given that the murder of a Black boy in Mississippi would become national news. In fact, it usually didn’t. Through the history of the all-Black town of Mound Bayou, this lecture reveals how the murder of Emmett Till became such a national phenomenon.
The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer was one of the most famous demonstrations of the Civil Rights Movement. Sturkey takes us inside the Freedom Schools where Black youths as young as five years old transformed into civil rights leaders. He shares their voices and vision as part of perhaps the most inspirational episode of the entire Movement.
In many tellings of the American War in Vietnam, Cambodia only arises when the Nixon Administration announced its invasion in the Spring of 1970. But Cambodia was essential to the entirety of the Vietnam War. This lecture lays out that history, revealing America’s “secret war” in Cambodia and explaining why the United States felt so compelled to invade in 1970 and how the conflict in Vietnam ultimately led to the emergence of the Khmer Rouge.
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther Jr. delivered his most searing critique to date of America's war in Vietnam. He lived precisely one more year before his assassination in Memphis. This lecture takes audiences through that tumultuous and somewhat mythical final year to lay bare the challenges King faced and leave listeners with an appreciation of his final and enduring message.