Edward L. Ayers received his PhD from Yale University in 1980 and since then has taught in the History Department at the University of Virginia, where he is now Hugh P. Kelly Professor of American History. A specialist on the history of the South, his books include Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment In the Nineteenth-Century American South (1984) and The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction (1992). The latter won the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award from the Southern Historical Association and the James Rawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and for a National Book Award.
Ayers has also been recognized for his teaching. He has won several teaching awards at the University of Virginia, including the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. In 1995, he was John Adams Professor of American Studies at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, under the auspices of the Fulbright Commission.
Ayers is currently at work on a major project linking digital technology with Civil War history. As one of the founders of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, he is the director of the “Valley of the Shadow Project,” an ambitious Website and CD-ROM that will explore the Civil War era in two communities, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania. His Klement Lecture draws on those experiences.