Blair LM Kelley, a historian and scholar of the African American experience, will serve as the new director of the Center for the Study of the American South.
She joined UNC's faculty in the Department of American Studies as the Joel R. Williamson Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies in January 2023. Kelley stepped into her new role on July 1, which includes being the co-director of the Southern Futures initiative.
When she first saw the open director position, she said that it was a jewel drawing her in as both a scholar and an administrator.
“I want to make sure that CSAS is a welcoming and special place and an inclusive place for all students,” Kelley said. “I am excited about that aspect of it, the really public-facing front porch of the University that CSAS can be.”
CSAS is a research center for the study of Southern culture in the past, present and future that aims to uplift the diversity of perspectives found in the region. The Southern Futures Initiative uses the arts and humanities to promote equity, justice and positive change in the South.
Kelley has found community at the center even before stepping into this role, she said.
Ayşe Erginer, the executive editor of Southern Cultures, the center's scholarly journal, served as acting director for the center in 2022.
She said in an email that a committee made up of faculty and staff searched for a director that was a senior scholar in the humanities with demonstrated excellence in research, teaching and publications related to the study of the South. The committee wanted someone that would bring leadership and administrative talent, as well as a clear vision for the next steps that the center, UNC and the field could reach.
“We couldn't be more excited to work with Blair and to help her execute her vision for the Center for many years to come,” Erginer said in an email.