Yesterday I received the sad news that Dr. James Turner, the founding director of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center, has died.
I had the good fortune to be Professor Turner’s student when I was at Cornell in the 1980s. He was a warm, wise, and engaging teacher who changed the way I thought about the world, and our classroom discussions would, a quarter century later, help inform the writing of Lovecraft Country.
Over the years, I’ve met other former students of Dr. Turner—like Victor LaValle, the author of The Ballad of Black Tom—and they all had the same impression I did. Everyone has a list of of teachers and mentors who made a real difference in their life, and if you were lucky enough to know James Turner, he was on that list. My sadness at his passing is tempered by the knowledge that this is a man who truly made good use of his time on earth.
Godspeed, Professor Turner. Thanks for the lessons.