Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 5: Spies of Mississippi


Spies of Mississippi: the true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement, by Rick Bowers

In the 1950's, as activists were working against segregation, the governor of Mississippi allowed the creation of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: a body dedicated to spying upon integrationists and anyone who might sympathize with their cause. As the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum and national attention, the Commission paid informants and sent spies into every meeting. It also produced quite a bit of pro-segregation propaganda and worked hard to stop integration with underhanded tricks.

Bowers' YA-level book describes the Commission's work within the wider context of the Civil Rights Movement, and about half the book is dedicated to simply explaining segregation and integrationist activism, all of which will be completely alien territory to anyone who hasn't studied it before. This makes it a good primer for a teenager on the Civil Rights Movement, and quite useful to adults as well. I don't know a lot about it myself, so most of the material was pretty new to me and I learned quite a bit.

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