Meet Bill Ferris, Preserving The Voices Of The South

May 16, 2016

Note: This program is a rebroadcast from Monday, December 7. 

When Bill Ferris meets someone, he usually asks, “Where are you from?”

The simple question prompts an important answer for the folklorist. For Ferris, a sense of place is integral to one's identity, and there is hardly a more influential and complex place in shaping identities than the American South. 

For more than 50 years, Ferris has documented the stories of the region. He has conducted thousands of interviews, directed 15 documentary films and either written or edited almost a dozen books.

Along the journey, Ferris broke racial barriers and gave the world an intimate look at the lives of blues musicians, painters, writers and many more.

He is the senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Ferris about his childhood in rural Mississippi and his work as one of the South's leading documentarians.