French translation of Bill Ferris’ ‘Give My Poor Heart Ease’ book wins prestigious prize

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The French translation of UNC historian William Ferris’ book, Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues, has won a prestigious prize from Académie Charles Cros in the world music book category.

Ferris is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Les Voix du Mississippi (Editions Papa Guédé), the French translation, received the Coup de Coeur de l’Académie Charles Cros Musiques du Monde for Ferris and publisher Benjamin Daussy. The Charles Cros Academy is an organization that acts as an intermediary between government cultural policy makers and professionals in the music and recording industries. It was named for Charles Cros, one of the pioneers of sound recording.

The Academy is probably best known for the grand prize it has given out every year since 1948, the Grand Prix du Disque, the premier French award for musical recordings.

Give My Poor Heart Ease was originally published by UNC Press in 2009. Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, folklorist Ferris toured his home state of Mississippi, documenting the voices of African Americans as they spoke about and performed the blues. B.B. King, Willie Dixon and other artists’ stories are told through personal reflections and Ferris’ photographs, audio and video via a companion DVD and CD. In an autobiographical introduction, Ferris reflects on how he fell in love with the vibrant musical culture that was all around him, but was considered off limits to a white Mississippian during a troubled era.