The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

Synopsis

In this fascinating study of race, politics, and economics in Mississippi, Chris Myers Asch tells the story of two extraordinary personalities--Fannie Lou Hamer and James O. Eastland--who represented deeply opposed sides of the civil rights movement. Both were from Sunflower County: Eastland was a wealthy white planter and one of the most powerful segregationists in the U.S. Senate, while Hamer, a sharecropper who grew up desperately poor just a few miles from the Eastland plantation, rose to become the spiritual leader of the Mississippi freedom struggle. Asch uses Hamer and Eastland's entwined histories, set against a backdrop of Sunflower County's rise and fall as a center of cotton agriculture, to explore the county's changing social landscape during the mid-twentieth century and its persistence today as a land separate and unequal. Asch, who spent nearly a decade in Mississippi as an educator, offers a fresh look at the South's troubled ties to the cotton industry, the long struggle for civil rights, and unrelenting social and economic injustice through the eyes of two of the era's most important and intriguing figures.

Excerpt

I love Sunflower County, Mississippi.

Writing that may undermine my objectivity as a historian, but I don’t care. I love Sunflower and its people, I enjoy its food and its music, I revel in its fields and the vast expanse of sky above them. I met and married my wife in Sunflower County, and I made lasting friendships there. It is where I spent most of my early adulthood, first as an elementary school teacher and later as the co-founder of an educational nonprofit organization called the Sunflower County Freedom Project. The area is and always will be part of who I am and who I aspire to be.

But as much as I love Sunflower County, I recognize that it is a deeply troubled place. Economic divisions and racial mistrust remain profound, and no amount of surface civility can mask the terrible toll that the culture of segregation continues to take on the community, particularly the children. There is ingrained poverty that still can shock the uninitiated—large families living in run-down trailers or decaying shotgun houses, idle men whiling away countless hours on the street, single mothers raising a fourth generation on welfare. Stagnation is the reigning motif of the economy, the education system, the social structure. Even in the age of the Internet, many people seem blissfully unconcerned with the world beyond Sunflower County. This book aims to explain how and why Sunflower County is the way it is.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.