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Tuttle lecture to reflect on namesake’s influential career

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

LAWRENCE – A familiar name will present this year’s annual Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture in American Studies at the University of Kansas — Bill Tuttle himself.

Tuttle, a professor emeritus in the Department of American Studies, will speak on “My Life as a Student of African-American History and Culture.” His speech marks the 10th edition of the annual lecture series, as well as two other milestones: the 50th anniversary of Tuttle’s arrival in Lawrence and his 80th birthday.

“This is a year of celebrations for me,” Tuttle said.

The Tuttle Lecture is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 5 at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. The event is free and open to the public.

It leads off a weekend of events celebrating Tuttle’s scholarship. “Fighting the Power: Honoring the Work of Bill Tuttle” includes two panels on Oct. 6: “Bill Tuttle as Scholar, Mentor and Community Activist” in the morning and “Studying Racial Violence: The Lessons of Race Riot” in the afternoon. Those panels will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the first-floor lecture room at Marvin Hall. More information on the events is available online.

The point of the weekend, Tuttle said, is to celebrate a life’s work of studying history “from the bottom up.”

“The history of rulers is most of what has been written by American historians, the top-down perspective,” Tuttle said. “Our objective was to write history from the bottom up, from the perspective of the shop floor in the factory, the neighborhood, that had not found its way into a history of the U.S.”

He added: “That has been my concern as a teacher and a scholar.”

Tuttle’s interest in African-American history grew out of a childhood in Detroit during the race riots in 1943 as well as during his service in the Air Force with African-Americans.

As a distinguished teacher, mentor and scholar, Tuttle guided generations of KU students. He taught in American studies, history and African & African-American studies, offering the first courses at KU in African-American history and post-World War II American history. His teaching awards include a 1998 W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, the H.O.P.E. Teaching Award from the Class of 2001 and the Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award in 2004. In 2007, he taught at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, holding the John Adams Distinguished Fulbright Chair. He has also lectured in Cuba and Japan.

Tuttle has written seminal works in African-American history, labor history, the history of childhood and recent American history, which have influenced scholars and students around the world. As a pioneer in history from the bottom up, he produced the classic books “Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919,” “‘Daddy's Gone to War’: The Second World War in the Lives of America's Children” and the co-edited “Plain Folk: The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans.” Through seven editions of the co-authored A People and a Nation, Tuttle reached millions of students. His scholarly articles have been frequently reprinted and widely cited.

Tuttle is an elected fellow of the Society of American Historians, and he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute of Southern History, Johns Hopkins University, the Charles Warren Center, Harvard University and the Stanford Humanities Center. In 2004, KU honored him with a Higuchi Award, the Balfour S. Jeffrey Award for Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

In Lawrence, Tuttle co-chaired the Second Century Fund to restore historic St. Luke AME Church. He is a longtime member of both the NAACP and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. For his community service, Tuttle was recognized with the Steeples Service to Kansans Award in 2006.

The Department of American Studies and friends and family of KU Professor Emeritus Bill Tuttle established the annual Bill Tuttle Distinguished Lecture in 2008 to honor Tuttle for his decades of academic excellence in research and teaching, as well as his service to the university, the Lawrence community and the nation. The Tuttle Lecture focuses on Tuttle’s primary teaching, research and civic concerns: African-American history and culture and recent American society and politics.

The weekend is supported by the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost, the College of Arts & Sciences, the departments of African & African American Studies, English, History and Sociology, the Indigenous Studies Program, Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith, and professors Beth Bailey and David Roediger.