William R. Ferris

Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

William FerrisA widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, Dr. Ferris is the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South and also the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997 – 2001). In his career, Ferris has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). He has also written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films. He co-edited the massive Encyclopedia of Southern Culture(UNC Press, 1989), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His other books include: Mule Trader: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules and Men (1992), Local Color (1982, 1992), Images of the South: Visits with Eudora Welty and Walker Evans (1978), Mississippi Black Folklore: A Research Bibliography and Discography (1971) and Blues from the Delta (1970, 1978, 1988). His book Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (2009) was published by the University of North Carolina Press and has now been translated into French. His most recent book, The Storied South: Voices of the Writers and Artists, was published by the UNC Press in August last year. Bill Ferris’ films include Mississippi Blues(1983), which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival. He has produced numerous sound recordings and hosted Highway 61, a weekly blues program on Mississippi Public Radio for nearly a decade. He also has published his own poetry and short stories.