The Senator and the Sharecropper

The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

By Chris Myers Asch

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7202-4
    Published: February 2011
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7805-7
    Published: February 2011

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Awards & distinctions

Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, Organization of American Historians

McLemore Prize, Mississippi Historical Society

Mississippi Authors Award in Nonfiction, Mississippi Library Association

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's and Eastland's entwined histories, set against the 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.

About the Author

Chris Myers Asch teaches history at the University of the District of Columbia.
For more information about Chris Myers Asch, visit the Author Page.


"Asch's book is a well-researched, incredibly detailed look at the Delta and continuing challenges to social justice."--Booklist

"Asch does a commendable job illuminating mid-twentieth century cotton kingdom economics."--Publisher's Weekly

"Compelling...Asch uses the stories of Hamer and Eastland to understand the Sunflower County of the present, to comprehend the economic stagnation that African American residents still face today and to make sense of the unspoken rules that continue to govern racial interactions in the twenty-first century."--Reviews in American History

"Weaves a story around these two main characters that is all too familiar to those who understand the tragic history of racism in the South."--The Journal of Mississippi History

"This elegant book yields fresh insight into the tumultuous decades of the 1950s and 1960s and sobering reflection on why segregation, poverty, and racial inequality continue to define life for many in Mississippi and beyond."--Patricia Sullivan, Emory University

"Asch's history traces and illuminates the development of white racism and total political domination over the majority black population in Sunflower County. The last chapter was so riveting that I was reading past midnight."--Charles McLaurin, former field secretary, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee