As of the census of 2000, there were 22,534 people, 8,248 households, and 6,012 families residing in the county. The population density was 17/km² (45/mi²). There were 9,211 housing units at an average density of 7/km² (18/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 56.11% White, 42.21% Black or African American, 0.32% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. 0.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 8,248 households out of which 31.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.00% were married couples living together, 18.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.10% were non-families. 23.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.18.
In the county the population was spread out with 26.60% under the age of 18, 9.00% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 23.60% from 45 to 64, and 13.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,870, and the median income for a family was $37,931. Males had a median income of $29,766 versus $21,444 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,708. 17.80% of the population and 13.60% of families were below the poverty line. 25.90% of those under the age of 18 and 16.30% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.