The South in Color

A Visual Journal

By William Ferris

Foreword by Tom Rankin

144 pp., 8 x 9.5, 103 color plates, bibl

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2968-1
    Published: September 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2969-8
    Published: July 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4986-1
    Published: July 2016

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

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Since the moment William Ferris’s parents gave their twelve-year-old son a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera for Christmas in 1954, Ferris passionately began to photograph his world. He has never stopped. The sixties and seventies were a particularly significant period for Ferris as he became a pathbreaking documentarian of the American South. This beautiful, provocative collection of 100 of Ferris’s photographs of the South, taken during this formative period, capture the power of his color photography. Color film, as Ferris points out in the book’s introduction, was not commonly used by documentarians during the latter half of the twentieth century, but Ferris found color to work in significant ways in the photographic journals he created of his world in all its permutations and surprises.

The volume opens with images of his family’s farm and its workers--family and hired--southeast of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The images are at once lyrical and troubling. As Ferris continued to photograph people and their homes, churches, and blues clubs, their handmade signs and folk art, and the roads that wound through the region, divisive racial landscapes become part of the record. A foreword by Tom Rankin, professor of visual studies and former director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, provides rich insight into Ferris’s work.

About the Author

William Ferris is Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. With Ferris’s two previous books, Give My Poor Heart Ease and The Storied South, The South in Color completes an informal trilogy of Ferris’s documentation of the South’s tumultuous twentieth century.
For more information about William Ferris, visit the Author Page.


“A visual journal boasting 103 photographs of the region’s idiosyncratic characters and landscapes.”--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Bill Ferris has taught a lot of people how to embrace Southern culture. . . . Now he’s showing us what he loves in photographs.”--Daily Beast

“Provides an honest and open perspective on his journey from the farm to a lifelong career as a folklorist.”--Mississippi Today

"[Ferris] distills his formative decades, the 1960s and '70s, into plain-spoken poetry about what life feels like in his more intimate, equitable and interconnected South. . . . In these images, Ferris' use of color shines. . . . His characters transcend the labels of black and white or have and have-not, granted a documentary pedestal from which they say their own pieces in their own voices."--Julian Rankin, The Clarion-Ledger

“Starting with [Ferris’s] boyhood days on his family’s farm near Vicksburg, Mississippi, the book includes vivid portraits of the region’s people and buildings and reflects his ambivalent relationship with the ‘beautiful and haunting worlds that always surround me.’”--Pennsylvania Gazette

“At first glance, The South in Color may appear to be a book about the difference between its subjects; for author Bill Ferris, it is about what makes them the same. Indeed, while turning through its pages, a strong sense of time, place and connection are impossible to ignore.”--Chapel Hill Magazine