Professor Edward L. Ayers, Ph.D.

Professor Edward L. Ayers
  • University of Richmond
  • Yale University
We cannot understand the United States if we do not understand the South, which has played such an outsized role in the history of our country.

Edward L. Ayers is the Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, summa cum laude, and his PhD in American Studies from Yale University.

Professor Ayers has written or edited 12 books on the history of 19th-century America. He is the author of The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America, which won the Lincoln Prize. A predecessor to that book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859–1864, won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history. Professor Ayers’s book The Promise of the New South was a finalist for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Since 2008, Professor Ayers has served as one of the cohosts for BackStory, a podcast that explores a different facet of American history each week. Professor Ayers is also the founder of Bunk (, a website that weaves together articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, and digital projects about the American past.

Professor Ayers has won many awards for his teaching and service. Most prominently, he was named National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.