Rummanah Aasi
  When you think of the Civil Rights Movement, what words and people suddenly pop into your mind? Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and sit-ins are just a few that I can think of this morning, but I'm sure you can come up with much more. Never would I have thought spies would also be in that mix until I read Rick Bower's chilling and eye-opening book called the Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement.

Description: In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission compiled secret files on more than 87,000 private citizens in the most extensive state spying program in U.S. history. Its mission: to save segregation.

Review: Drawing upon archival material, his impeccable research and personal investigation, Bowers has uncovered something new in the much discussed topic of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. In 1956, the state of Mississippi created a Sovereignty Commission that started as a propaganda outlet for white supremacy quickly morphed into a full blown spy network, with a goal of stopping integration and crushing the civil rights movement in the state.
 In extensive details, Bowers discusses the Commission's tactics that were appalling and disregarded the constitutional rights for those who supported or aided the cause as well as the scope of this network's activities from its initial attempts to control or marginalize the NAACP and resist public and school and university integration into outright advocacy of violence and obstruction of justice. Although the Commission was thankfully abolished due to the federal civil rights legislation and the threat of financial sanctions, the author still warn his readers that racism is just as alive today as it was back then. Period black-and-white photographs, an appendix with reproductions of selected Commission documents, and an extensive bibliography of books and links to online archives supplement the text, making this a great resource for young readers doing a research project on the Civil Rights movement. Spies of Mississippi is a an eye-opening and powerful experience. 

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Race riots and violence are discussed. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: They Call Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This is not something I would typically pick up in the library or bookstore, but I think it would be a fascinating (and horrifying) read. Eye opening is probably a brilliant way to describe it Rummanah, I think I would be disgusted at the lengths people went to in order to prevent other human beings from having equal rights. Ugh.

  2. I thought this was a really good book, especially for high school students. It is easy to read, interesting, and SO revealing of stuff I didn't know!

  3. Nothing surprises me at all when it comes to racism. That there was this group trying to subvert the laws, doesn't make me bat an eye. I grew up in the South and still live here. I love the South, but racism is alive everywhere. I don't need a book to tell me that!


  4. Wow I had no idea! This sounds like a fascinating and insightful book as well as a wealth of information. Thanks so much for sharing this today!

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