William R. Ferris

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Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History; Senior Associate Director of CSAS; Adjunct Professor in the Curriculum in Folklore

Love House and Hutchins Forum
410 East Franklin Street
CB# 9127
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599


Personal Website

MA Northwestern University, 1965 (English)
MA University of Pennsylvania, 1967 (Folklore)
PhD University of Pennsylvania, 1969 (Folklore)

Research Interests

William R. Ferris is a professor of history at UNC–Chapel Hill and an adjunct professor in the Curriculum in Folklore. He is associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and is widely recognized as a leader in Southern studies, African-American music and folklore. He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prior to his role at NEH, Ferris served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he was a faculty member for 18 years.

Ferris has written and edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films, most of which deal with African-American music and other folklore representing the Mississippi Delta. He co-edited the Pulitzer Prize nominee Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (UNC Press, 1989), which contains entries on every aspect of Southern culture and is widely recognized as a major reference work linking popular, folk, and academic cultures.

Click Here for Professor Ferris’s Media Files 

Some Notable Publications

  • The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists (University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
  • The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 14: Folklife, Co-Editor with Glenn Hinson; Charles Wilson, General Editor (University of North Carolina Press, 2010)
  • Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Les Voix du Mississippi (French translation: Papa Guédé, 2013)
  • “You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget It All.” Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules and Men, Foreword by Eudora Welty, (Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1992); reissued as Ray Lum: Mule Trader (University Press of Mississippi, 1998)
  • Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Foreword by Alex Haley, Co-Editor with Charles Wilson (University of North Carolina Press, 1989); four-volume paperback (Anchor/Doubleday, 1991)
  • Blues From the Delta, Studio Vista (London, 1970); revised edition, Foreword by Billy Taylor (Doubleday, 1978); (DaCapo, 1988); Il Blues Del Delta: Blues From the Delta (Italian Translation: Postmedia Books, 2011)

Courses Offered (as schedules allow)

For current course listings, consult the Registrar’s Schedule of Classes.

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