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Orange Literacy presents

13th Annual Writers for Readers 

Sunday, March 8, 2020 at 4 pm

Carolina Club (George Watts Hill Alumni Center)

UNC's campus

Join us as Bill Ferris – Grammy winner and senior associate director emeritus at UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South – interviews Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tift Merritt and gospel singer-historian-educator Mary D. Williams in "Our Universal Language: How Songs Move Us to Read.”
Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish, will emcee. Tickets are $40/person and include admission to the event (with a brief performance by our musicians!) and a reception. 

It's our 35th year! Can you chip in $35 or $35/month to honor this milestone? 


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William R. Ferris 

A widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music and folklore, Bill is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director emeritus of its Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor emeritus in the curriculum on folklore.

The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997-2001), Bill has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). 


He has written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films. He co-edited the massive "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture" (UNC Press, 1989), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His box set, “Voices of Mississippi,” received two Grammy Awards for Best Liner Notes and for Best Historical Album.

Tift Merritt

Tift is a Grammy-nominated songwriter who wanted to be a writer until her father taught her guitar chords and Percy Sledge songs. The New Yorker has called Tift “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” 


The Washington Post writes, "Tift Merritt is working in the tradition of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Leonard Cohen." Don Henley, with help from Mick Jagger, kicks off his album Cass County with a cover of her song "Bramble Rose." With nearly twenty years of recording and touring under her belt, Tift is also a regular contributor to the Oxford American. Tift lives and writes in North Carolina with her young daughter.


Daniel is author of six novels, including Big Fish and Extraordinary Adventures. His children’s book, published in 2014, and for which he did both the words and the pictures, is called The Cat’s Pajamas. His essays and interviews have been published in The Bitter Southerner, Garden & Gun, and Our State magazine, where he was, for a short time, the barbecue critic. In 2019, he won the Harper Lee Award, given to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to Alabama letters.

Daniel is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, where he directs the Creative Writing Program.

Daniel Wallace

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Mary is an Afro American historian studies performer for over 30 years and counting. She has traveled to more than 50 colleges and universities, more than 50 public schools, and hundreds of churches, libraries, and public school teachers’ institutes.  


Mary, along with friend and colleague Dr. Timothy B. Tyson, has taught a community-based college course, “The South in Black and White: History, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century South,” for over 10 years. 


Mary has truly developed into a public educator, studying North Carolina history and culture while continuing to do scholarly explorations of the history and theory of gospel music. It is her primary goal not to just perform the best traditions of North Carolina, but to dissect their subtleties in an accessible manner for a wide listening and learning audience.  


Mary has performed and provided her voice to the soundtrack for the Hollywood movie Blood Done Sign My Name as well as the television movie The Wronged Man. Mary has been featured on a number of occasions on NPR.  


Mary is a graduate of UNC, with a BA in American Studies, minor in African American Diaspora and History, and MA in Folklore. 

Mary D. Williams

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Karen Eldridge 


Joan H. Gillings



Brown Advisory

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Tom Kenan

Talia & John Sherer

UNC Press


Anne & Glen Cannon

Robbie Dircks

Durham Tech

Randy Gardner

Hill Family Fund 2 of the Triangle Community Foundation

Trevor Holman Photography

Jon & Myra Jester

Moyra & Brian Kileff

Jeff & Lynn Lang 

Stacy & Stephen Markwell

Harriet & D.G. Martin

Shannon Ravenel & Dale Purves

 Deborah & Ed Roach

Wyndham Robertson

Sallie Shuping Russell & Edward "Ed" Spence

 Katharine & KennethSpence




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