Historian, Filmaker, and Author William R. Ferris on the Rich History of Southern Life and Culture

Jul 28, 2016

As the author or editor of many books and at least 15 documentary films, Bill Ferris has long been helping us to reflect on Southern culture. Dr. Jonathan Judaken discusses the history of the South with Dr. Bill Ferris in a fascinating interview.


Dr. William R. Ferris
Credit The University of North Carolina Press / Bill Ferris

In the Foreword to Dr. William R. Ferris’s new book, The South in Color, Tom Rankin writes: “A series of photographs like these help us see with fresh eyes where we’ve already been; help us remember, yes, but also prompt us to discover a new clarity of vision, a way to re-imagine even the most familiar of past places. ‘We come to terms as well as we can with our lifelong exposure to the world,’ wrote Eudora Welty. ‘If exposure is essential, still more so is the reflection.’ The joy of this work is the deeply considered reflection, a series of powerful images that bear witness to the range of places, people, and the moments Bill found resonant and relevant. This is the photographic work of a great listener and observer. Bill Ferris’s images… make us feel we are learning our own history yet again while simultaneously discovering brand new territories we had no idea existed.” 

Dr. William R.Ferris is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History; Senior Associate Director of CSAS; Adjunct Professor in the Curriculum in Folklore at the University of North Carolina. 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.

For more information:

The Archives of the William R. Ferris Collection at UNC

A Collection of the Films of William R. Ferris on Folkstreams.net

Dr. William R. Ferris's Faculty Profile at UNC and Dr. William R. Ferris's Personal Blog