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Eastland Biography to be Reviewed at Overby Center Wednesday

EastlandMaarten Zwiers, author of a new biography of Sen. James O. Eastland, will be at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at 2 p.m. Wednesday, to talk about his book and assess the long record of a man who represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate for nearly four decades.

Joining him to conduct a conversation about Eastland will be Jim Abbott, who served for many years as editor of the Indianola Enterprise-Tocsin in Sunflower County, where Eastland made his home.

The program will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. It is free and open to the public.

Zwiers obtained a master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi in 2007 while studying here on a Fulbright scholarship. He is a cum laude graduate of the University of Groningen in his native country, the Netherlands, and later returned there to receive a PhD in history, specializing in American studies. He also did coursework at the University of North Carolina. He currently teaches at his alma mater, the University of Groningen, and also works as a freelance historian.

Zwiers drew heavily from Eastland’s papers at the J.D. Williams Library at Ole Miss, but conducted prodigious research at other locations to produce the first complete biography of a memorable Mississippi figure who championed segregationist causes and blocked civil rights legislation in the Senate until his retirement in 1978.

“Senator James Eastland: Mississippi’s Jim Crow Democrat” was published this year by LSU Press.

Dan T. Carter, a prominent Southern historian, says that Zwiers’ “gracefully written study captures a much more complete, shrewd and effective figure in the intersection between regional and national politics.”

The book has also been hailed by Charles Reagan Wilson, professor emeritus at Ole Miss where he headed the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “This nuanced study brings new ideas on Eastland’s importance in facilitating compromise at the national political level while maintaining a militant Southern segregationist position,” Wilson said.

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