Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers

July 23rd, 2011 by Brian Leave a reply »

I’m always on the lookout for nonfiction for my junior high students. Examples like Lost Boy, Lost Girl are fantastic and make me order multiple copies, which is a good problem to have.

Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers is another great nonfiction history for my students. It’s an overview of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The commission was a semi-secret agency created by the state of Mississippi with the sole purpose of keeping the state segregated (the races separate). That’s the whole “Sovereignty” part. Just like in the Civil War, the state was saying that its rights were being infringed by the Federal government.

The commission’s files are finally online. You can look through them here. It’s crazy that a government group was spying on citizens. Agents would show up to civil rights meetings, pretend to be supporters, and start writing down plans, addresses, and license plates. The government tracked movements of activists in a giant database. It’s like they were fighting the Soviet Union, but it was against United States citizens – people the government should be protecting.

The book walks through the history of the commission and puts a personal face to the issues through interviews and photos. It’s a very quick read, less than 100 pages, and is more than just a listing of facts and dates. It’s well worth your read. As the author points out, most of this stuff is a historical footnote, but the minute we forget, that’s when it happens all over again.


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