Historian’s Book Chosen for New Publishing Imprint Featuring Leading National Authors

A book by UNC Charlotte history professor Karen L. Cox about Confederate monuments is one of the first four books under contract in the newly created Marcie Cohen Ferris and William R. Ferris Imprint for high-profile, general-interest books about the American South.

“The American South is the ideal canvas on which to create a better understanding of our nation and the world,” said John Sherer, the Spangler Family Director of UNC Press. “These funds allow us to commission, acquire, and market books by the nation’s leading authors who share that vision but who require the type of financial support normally out of reach for a university press.” A new multimillion-dollar endowment at the University of North Carolina Press will support Ferris & Ferris Books.

Cox, who teaches courses in southern history and culture at UNC Charlotte, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the history of Confederate monuments and the continuing controversy around them.

“As a scholar of the American South, I’m very honored to be included in an initiative that can reach broader audiences,” she said.

Cox’s inclusion in the imprint for the new book she will write signals her significance as an important scholar and historian, said Nancy A. Gutierrez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “Through her research, writing and public conversations, Dr. Cox illustrates how the history of Confederate monuments continues to affect society today,” Gutierrez said. “Her work is critical not only for historians and other scholars, but for all of us, as we seek understanding and insight about how to navigate these and related issues.”

Cox’s first book, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (The University Press of Florida), won the 2004 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize from the Southern Association for Women Historians for the Best Book in Southern Women’s History. UNC Press published her second book, Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture, in 2011 and her third book, Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, in 2017. Goat Castle was featured in the Personally Speaking authors’ series at UNC Charlotte. She also is the editor or co-editor of two additional volumes that explore the history of the South.

Karen Cox and Lucy Worsley on a bench in a cemetery.
Karen Cox (right) meets with British historian Lucy Worsley for the BBC’s American History’s Biggest Fibs.

In 2019, Cox appeared in Henry Louis Gates’ PBS documentary Reconstruction: America after the Civil War and in the BBC production American History’s Biggest Fibs with British historian Lucy Worsley. Cox has written op-eds for The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, TIME magazine, Publishers Weekly, and The Huffington Post and has been interviewed by a number of international, national and regional news outlets due to her expertise on the American South. She frequently gives public talks to both community and academic audiences, and is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer.

With the new Ferris & Ferris Books imprint, the inaugural book to be published is Grace Elizabeth Hale’s Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture, due out in March 2020. Two more books are under contract in the imprint. They are a major new reference history of the South edited by Pulitzer Prize finalist W. Fitzhugh Brundage, and a look at barbecue in African American history and culture by James Beard Foundation Award-winner Adrian Miller.

Bill and Marcie Cohen Ferris, the namesakes of the new imprint, have a long-running connection with The UNC Press. Their collective work and interests in the South are as expansive and diverse as the region itself.

Marcie Cohen Ferris is professor emerita of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the board of directors of the Southern Foodways Alliance. The SFA recently honored her with its 2018 Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. Her UNC Press publications include the James Beard Foundation Award nominee Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South (2005), The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region (2016), and Edible North Carolina (forthcoming).

Bill Ferris is professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also served until retirement as associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South. He previously served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he is a two-time Grammy Award winner. His publications with The Press include the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, coedited by Charles Reagan Wilson (1989); Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (2009); The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 14: Folklife, coedited by Glenn Hinson (2012); The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists (2013); and The South in Color: A Visual Journal (2016).

The UNC Press plans to publish two to three books annually under the Ferris & Ferris Books imprint.

Words: Lynn Roberson | Images: Courtesy of Karen Cox

Karen Cox giving a talk.
Karen L. Cox gives a public Personally Speaking talk on one of her books, Goat Castle.