William Shield McFeely (born September 25, 1930) is an American historian. He retired as the Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities emeritus at the University of Georgia in 1997, and has been affiliated with Harvard University since 2006.
McFeely received his B.A. from Amherst College in 1952, and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1966. He studied there with, among others, C. Vann Woodward, whose book The Strange Career of Jim Crow was a staple of the Civil Rights movement. Like Woodward, he sought to employ history in the service of civil rights. His dissertation, later the 1968 book Yankee Stepfather, explored the ill-fated Freedmen's Bureau which was created to help ex-slaves after the Civil War. While at Yale, during the tumultuous years of the American Civil Rights Movement and Black Power movements, he was instrumental in creating the African-American studies program at a time when such programs were still controversial. He taught for 16 years at Mount Holyoke College before joining the University of Georgia in 1986 as the Constance E. Smith Fellow. McFeely won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his 1981 biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which portrayed the general and president in a harsh light, concluding that Grant "Did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics."
McFeely retired in 1997, and was a fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during the 2006-2007 academic year, where he studied Henry Adams and his wife Clover Adams, and Clarence King and his wife Ada Copeland King. He is a currently a visiting scholar and associate member of Harvard's Afro-American Studies Department and an associate of their Humanities Center.1982 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for Grant: A Biography.
1982 Parkman Prize for "Grant: A Biography"
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1987)
The Lincoln Prize 1991 for Frederick Douglass (based upon the life of Frederick Douglass).
1992 Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians.
Yankee Stepfather: General O.O. Howard and the Freedmen (W. W. Norton, 1968)
Grant: A Biography (W. W. Norton, 1981)
Frederick Douglass (W. W. Norton, 1990)
Sapelo's People: A Long Walk into Freedom (W. W. Norton, 1994)
Proximity to Death (W. W. Norton, 2000)
Portrait: The Life of Thomas Eakins (W. W. Norton, 2007)