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Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History; Senior Associate Director of CSAS; Adjunct Professor in the Curriculum in Folklore; Emeritus
Love House and Hutchins Forum, 410 E. Franklin St., CB #9127, Chapel Hill, NC 27599


MA Northwestern University, 1965
MA University of Pennsylvania, 1967
PhD University of Pennsylvania, 1969

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.

Some Notable Publications

  • 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)