Seven white Mississippi sheriffs are immortalized in an infamous 1962 Life photograph. In this horrific freeze-frame of racism, the sheriffs admire a billy club with obvious pleasure, preparing for the unrest they anticipate—and to which they clearly intend to contribute—in the wake of James Meredith's planned attempt to integrate the University of Mississippi.
In telling the stories of these men, Paul Hendrickson gives us an extraordinarily revealing view of racism in America at that moment. But his ultimate focus is on the part this legacy has played in the lives of their families—how the racial bigotry of those seven white Mississippi sheriffs has been transformed or has remained untouched in their children and grandchildren.
A prize-winning feature writer for the Washington Post for more than 20 years, Paul Hendrickson now teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of three previous books, two of them book award finalists: Looking for the Light (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War (National Book Award finalist, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Publisher's Weekly Best Books of the Year).
Hendrickson has been awarded various fellowships and numerous journalism honors and awards. In 1999 he was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow for his work on Sons of Mississippi. Partially educated in the South, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in a seminary for the Catholic missionary priesthood, Hendrickson has degrees in American literature from St. Louis University and Pennsylvania State University.