William Ferris grew up on a farm in Warren County, Mississippi in the 1940s and 50s. The Ferris family, the only white family on the farm, worked side by side with African Americans in the fields. As a teenager he began documenting his neighbors’ lives, the Sunday gospel singers at Rose Hill Church, the blues musicians living near the home — including the soon-to-be well-known Mississippi Fred McDowell.
His thousands of photographs, films, and sound-recordings of interviews and music performances are now online: the William R. Ferris Collection, 1910s-2016, part of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina. And Bill went on to become a prolific author, folklorist, filmmaker, and chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. But the inspiration for his many accomplishments remains his rural farm community.
Read more and listen to the podcast: Episode #107: William Ferris: Keeper of Southern Folklife.