collage showing 4 black and white photos of musicians from Mississippi

Voices of Mississippi

February 11, 2023 | Yardley Hall

Past Event

"Voices of Mississippi” is a new multimedia event that celebrates the music, art and storytelling traditions of the people of Mississippi.

Based on the 2019 double Grammy Award–winning “Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris,” the program features live musical performances integrated with film, audio recordings and rare photographs by folklorist William “Bill” Ferris, who will serve as host for the evening. 

The show features musicians Ruthie Foster and Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, Sharde Thomas and Chris Mallory, all of whom have deep ties to Mississippi and artists documented by Ferris.

A historian with a proud egalitarian lens, Ferris studied Mississippi as a slice of humanity in which everyone and everything was interconnected—and in which the beating heart of broader cultural traditions could be found in some of the most overlooked figures and places. From the 1960s through the 1990s, Ferris created an invaluable archive of cultural and musical treasures, and much of that art and humanity will be shared in this unique concert experience.

With a broad array of photos, film clips, stories and live music, “Voices of Mississippi” paints a powerful picture of a unique time and place that remains an essential piece of the American cultural fabric.

William Ferris

Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, William “Bill” Ferris grew up on a working farm and was always fascinated by the Southern folklore and culture surrounding him. At a young age, he began documenting the artwork, music and lives of the people on the farm and in his local community.

Earning a PhD in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, Ferris served as Professor of English at Mississippi’s Jackson State University (1970-1972), American and Afro-American Studies at Yale (1972-1979), Anthropology at the University of Mississippi (1979-1997) and History and Folklore at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (2002-2018). In addition to teaching, Ferris co-founded the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis, served as the founding director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and was Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997 to 2001. While his work has provided powerful tools in institutions of higher learning for decades, Ferris is most notably a teacher and humanitarian with an unwavering commitment to establish, share and expand an appreciation of community and culture in the American South.

Ruthie Foster

Austin, Texas, native Ruthie Foster has been seen duetting with Bonnie Raitt, standing onstage with the Allman Brothers and trading verses with Susan Tedeschi. She has been nominated for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy — four times, and won 10 Blues Music Awards, three Austin Music Awards, the Grand Prix du Disque award from the Académie Charles-Cros in France, a Living Blues Critics’ Award for Female Blues Artist of the Year and the title of an “inspiring American Artist” as a United States Artists 2018 Fellow.

Described by Rolling Stone as “pure magic to watch and hear,” her vocal talent was elevated in worship services at her community church. Drawing influence from legendary acts like Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, Foster developed a unique sound unable to be contained within a single genre. That uniqueness echoes a common theme in Foster’s life and career — marching to the beat of her own drum.

Shardé Thomas

Shardé Thomas was born in North Mississippi and is the granddaughter of the late Othar Turner, the legendary fife player who kept the fife and drum tradition alive. Shardé was her grandfather’s musical heir at a very young age and today is the lead vocalist and fife player in the Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band. After Turner passed away, Thomas took over the band, which now performs a mixture of blues, pop, hip-hop, gospel and folk music. 

Luther Dickinson

A gifted guitarist with an eclectic range of influences, Luther Dickinson has earned a reputation as an innovator in modern blues while also having a keen understanding and respect for its rich history. Whether co-leading the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars band with his drummer brother, Cody, recording and performing solo or collaborating with regional artists ranging from Jimbo Mathus and Shardé Thomas to Amy LaVere and Alvin Youngblood Hart, his devotion to and experiments with roots sounds from the American South is total — blues, rockabilly, gospel, folk, and raw funky soul are a few of the genres he recombines on a mercurial collection of recordings.

Cody Dickinson

Perhaps best known as the drummer and a founding member of the North Mississippi Allstars band, Cody Dickinson earned three Grammy nominations as a member of the band. He has also personally garnered a Blues Music Awards nomination in the Best Instrumentalist/Drums category and was co-producer of the film “Take Me to The River.”