Catfish Dream

Ed Scott's Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta

Title Details

Pages: 160

Illustrations: 33 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 07/10/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5359-3

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 07/10/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5360-9

List Price: $69.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published in association with Southern Foodways Alliance

Published with the generous support of Sarah Mills Hodge Fund

Catfish Dream

Ed Scott's Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta

A portrait of an African American family’s life in the Delta

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

Catfish Dream centers around the experiences, family, and struggles of Ed Scott Jr. (born in 1922), a prolific farmer in the Mississippi Delta and the first ever nonwhite owner and operator of a catfish plant in the nation.

Both directly and indirectly, the economic and political realities of food and subsistence affect the everyday lives of Delta farmers and the people there. Ed’s own father, Edward Sr., was a former sharecropper turned landowner who was one of the first black men to grow rice in the state. Ed carries this mantle forth with his soybean and rice farming and later with his catfish operation, which fed the black community both physically and symbolically. He provides an example for economic mobility and activism in a region of the country that is one of the nation’s poorest and has one of the most drastic disparities in education and opportunity, a situation especially true for the Delta’s vast African American population. With Catfish Dream Julian Rankin provides a fascinating portrait of a place through his intimate biography of Scott, a hero at once so typical and so exceptional in his community.

Catfish Dream is a significant resource on the history of race in the Mississippi Delta. Julian Rankin eloquently describes how Ed Scott courageously struggles with the bureaucracy of racism, only to discover that the system is embedded in our society at both the local and the national levels. Most important, Rankin shows how Scott and his family resisted and ultimately defeated that system.

—William Ferris, author of The South in Color: A Visual Journey

In his debut work, Catfish Dream, Julian Rankin tells an important story. Anyone interested in agriculture, the American South, foodways, and African American enterprise will be fascinated by this book. Mr. Ed Scott is a hero our country needs to learn about, and this portrait of him is strong and beautifully written. His situation and his fate are central to the American experiment. I cannot recommend Mr. Rankin’s storytelling too highly. It is a powerful thing. We owe him a debt.

—Randall Kenan, author of The Fire This Time

Ed Scott Jr. is perhaps not a name familiar to many Americans, but it should be. His experience and struggles with racism are the focus of . . . an intimate portrait of the first nonwhite owner and operator of an American catfish plant. . . . Part of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Studies in Culture, People, and Place series, Catfish Dream presents an emblem for African American success even in the face of tremendous obstacles.

—Smithsonian Magazine


James Beard Book Awards, James Beard Foundation


Nonfiction Award, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters

About the Author/Editor

JULIAN RANKIN was raised in Mississippi and North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rankin was the founding director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art. He now serves as executive director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. His personal work explores identity and place in the contemporary South. He is the author of Catfish Dream: Ed Scott’s Fight for his Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta published by the University of Georgia Press as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place series. He is the recipient of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s first annual residency at Rivendell Writers Colony. For Catfish Dream, Rankin was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award, and was also recognized as the 2019 Nonfiction winner by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.