Mississippi Delta farmer Ed Scott Jr. (1922–2015) was the first African American owner and operator of a catfish plant in the nation.

When he was shut out of the industry during the 1980s catfish boom, Scott turned 160 acres of arable farmland into catfish ponds and built a processing plant of concrete and stainless steel atop the bones of an old tractor shed. In doing so, he marched into history. Scott used food as a weapon and a megaphone: feeding civil rights workers, employing dozens of his friends and neighbors, joining a class action suit against the federal government, and providing an example of perseverance for future generations.

This episode is adapted from the book Catfish Dream: Ed Scott’s Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta by Julian Rankin (published by University of Georgia Press; Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place series). Learn more at www.catfishdream.com.

***

Julian Rankin wrote this episode. Beau York of Podastery Studios in Jackson, MS, produced.

Archival audio from the Sunflower County Library, C-SPAN, and Spectrum Productions.

Read an excerpt of Catfish Dream here.

Julian Rankin will read from the book and sign copies at Square Books in Oxford, MS, on July 12. He will be at the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson on August 18.