Beginning Thursday Oct. 12, The University of Southern Mississippi’s Museum of Art will present “Portraits of Southerners: A Celebration of Southern Photography.” The gallery will open at 7 p.m. with a reception in the George Hurst building following a lecture from William R. Ferris. The lecture will begin at 6 p.m. in the Gonzales Auditorium in the Liberal Arts Building on campus. The lecture is sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council.
Ferris is a Southern photographer from Vicksburg, Mississippi. According to his online collection in the Southern Folklife Collection, he later moved and completed high school in North Andover, Massachusetts. Ferris earned his B.A. in English Literature at Davidson College in 1964, and then later in 1965, earned his M.A. in English Literature From Northwestern University. From 1965 to 1966, he studied in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College. In 1967, he earned his masters degree and Ph.D. in folklore from The University of Pennsylvania.
“Ferris’s scholarship has focused on the American South and its literature, folklore, and culture, through a variety of media: print, sound, film, and photography. From 1970 to 1972, he was an assistant professor in the Department of English at Jackson State University. From 1972 to 1979, he held a joint appointment as associate professor in American Studies and Afro- American Studies at Yale University. During his tenure at Yale, Ferris co- founded the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis, Tennessee, and was its director from 1972 to 1984. Ferris returned to the South, and, from 1979 to 1997, he served as founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and professor of anthropology at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. In 1997 Ferris was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. When his four-year term as Chairman ended in 2001, he spent six months as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Since 2002, Ferris has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History, Adjunct Professor in American Studies, Folklore, and School of Information and Library Science, and he also serves Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South,” said his biography.
“Ferris’s most recent book, Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2009. His forthcoming book, A Southern Album: Stories From Writers, Scholars, Musicians, Photographers, and Painters, will be published by the UNC Press in 2013. Ferris is currently working on a book of his photography.”
The photographs are featured from the “Do Good Fund,” “a public collection of photographs taken in the American South since World War II.” The subject matter is of people in everyday life that represent the Southern lifestyle and culture and will include Ferris’ work, along with other photographers of the South.