About Southern Futures

Southern Futures is a collaborative network for the students, scholars, creators, and community leaders doing extraordinary work to reimagine the American South.

Inspired by work in the College of Arts & Sciences, University Libraries, and Carolina Performing Arts, Southern Futures is a collaborative network bringing together efforts across the nation’s first public university.

Our administrative home is the Center for the Study of the American South, located in the historic Love House and Hutchins Forum.


Southern Futures cultivates a rising generation of leaders

A prosperous future for the American South depends on future generations who want to study, live, and lead in communities across the region. We  inspire, educate, and support the next generation of leaders who will contribute to the region’s prosperity. We support undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, decision-makers and thought leaders through scholarships, courses, fellowships, community partnerships, and summits that foster life-changing education, critical thinking, and listening across difference.

Moriah James

Exploring intersections of class and race in Green Valley

Diamond Holloman

Voices of resilience and recovery in Robeson County

Anna Hamilton

Vulnerable lives on the Matanzas River

Southern Futures brings the arts and the humanities to the forefront

Through stories we share ideas, culture, history and values that unite and inspire us. Whether in a documentary, a play, a podcast or an artistic performance, stories help us express and understand the human condition and shift attitudes and culture. They are memorable, accessible, and meaningful. By deploying the creative energy of performance, visual art, oral history, literature, and other creative practices, we will create a bold, new, radically inclusive vision for who we are and who we can be.


Award-winning poet Nikky Finney, Carolina’s 2020 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence, speaks poignantly to the experience of Blackness in the South and in the world. Here, Finney speaks of humanity, visibility, memory, and resilience at a panel entitled “‘Blacker than a hundred midnights’: Public History and Memory and the Souls of Blackfolk in the South.” Finney speaks of the erasure of Black culture — “of Black humanity” — and articulates the urgency of visibility, the urgency of recognition, and the urgency of change, articulating a vision for a new southern future towards which we can all work to achieve. “The only thing that survives, that keeps coming back, is Black memory. We will not die. There are Black people in the future.”

In a conversation co-sponsored by Southern Futures and the Center for the Study of the American South, NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dr. Micky Collins share their story of health, healing, and listening. A lesson in grit, determination, and reinvention, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recounts his road to recovery following two major concussion and the central role that his doctor, Micky Collins, played in his physical and mental recoveries — as well as his return to NASCAR. In an interdisciplinary conversation that bridges neuroscience and NASCAR, healing and the humanities, Earnhardt Jr. and Collins speak eloquently to the challenges and rewards of looking to the future and starting afresh.

In collaboration with Carolina’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Southern Futures helped sponsor “Tales of the American South,” an interactive, 360-degree video that highlights some of the unique stories of the American South. Immerse yourself in a cutting-edge exploration of the South’s complicated past, its present, and its hopeful future — from the perspective of the stars.

Southern Futures gathers and shares Carolina’s resources

Chapel Hill has a remarkable, multi-disciplinary collection of expertise focused on the South – from its scholarship to its library and archives, museum, UNC Press and its substantial commitment to the arts. The University’s legacy of academic leadership in Southern Studies, including in social science, history, and literature, among many other areas, is of value to all who want to understand and advance the future of the South. Southern Futures builds on Chapel Hill’s resources in a way that is equal to the significance of the task. This work makes these special assets more accessible and impactful: to Southern communities who can use Chapel Hill’s expertise toward the betterment of their communities, and to people around the world who continue to be intensely interested in the South.

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