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Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  361 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
The Spies of Mississippi is a compelling story of how state spies tried to block voting rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights era. This book sheds new light on one of the most momentous periods in American history.

Author Rick Bowers has combed through primary-source materials and interviewed surviving activists named in once-secret files, as well as the writ
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by National Geographic Children's Books (first published December 18th 2009)
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Jan 24, 2010 Betsy rated it really liked it
When kids think of spies the general impression is almost always positive. There's that vague sense that Benedict Arnold was one and that was a bad thing, but generally their spy-knowledge is informed by folks like James Bond, Alex Rider, and other intrepid adventurers. The notion that spying could be used for evil instead of good doesn't get a lot of play in their literature. So when I read the subtitle of this book and saw that it read The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy th ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Heidi rated it it was amazing
Fear and hate, two of the most dangerous weapons on the planet. And boy did the segregationists use them to manipulate the public. Segregationists in Mississippi were so determined to undermine the civil rights movement and the legal decisions that were increasingly turning against them that they set up the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to combat it. They recruited spies to check on civil rights workers and anyone they considered a threat. Generally they tried to use more subtle metho ...more
Dec 18, 2010 Patricia rated it liked it
Read for Mock Printz.

A very brief history of a dark time in US History. The book traces the creation and activities of a state-sponsored agency created to spy on and defeat any integration or Civil Rights efforts in the state of Mississippi. I was about halfway through when the facts of the book suddenly hit me. Wow! The state of Mississippi set up and recruited spies as well as investigated people who had not committed any crime. They then attempted to discredit these people in any way possible
Amy Carr
Jan 14, 2011 Amy Carr rated it liked it
I would give this book 3.5 chronicles the unbelievable efforts by the Mississippi state government to undermine the entire Civil Rights movement and maintain their culture of "separation". I found my jaw dropping again and again at the lengths these individuals went to uphold incredible evils...and these were the elected officials meant to protect and defend our liberties. I was also horrified at what people, black and white, and institutions were willing to do for money. Very eye-ope ...more
Dec 22, 2015 Colette rated it it was amazing
"In fact, there is evidence that the bad old days are poised for a comeback. For the past two decades, public schools have been gradually resegregating as federal and state courts back off enforcement of integration laws and legislatures sidestep the issue."
Nov 23, 2015 Dan rated it liked it
I read this to teach. I have been spoiled by other history books for adults that do a much better job of recreating the era.
Nov 29, 2016 Lucas rated it it was amazing
My book was Spies of Mississippi. The author of this great book is Rick Bowers. I like this book so much that I would recommend reading this. It was about these spies who went to Mississippi to spy on the enemies. They spied on the enemies so that they could find out what the enemy was planning on doing to whoever they were trying to kill, hurt, or attack. They did this so that they could protect the people the enemy was going to try and hurt, kill, or plan on doing any of those things. They did ...more
Jan 15, 2017 La-Shanda rated it it was amazing
As a flower that blossomed in Mississippi, I have a life long interest in Southern History. "Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement" has afforded me an opportunity to understand dark moments in race relations in the Magnolia State. Author Rick Bowers does a commendable job at explaining the Civil Rights movement, the clash of local and federal government authority, and so much more. Thank you to Donors Choose and Chevron Fuel Your ...more
Jill Guccini
Jan 29, 2011 Jill Guccini rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Really interesting, intense, and enraging story; most of it reinforced things I've been learning about the Civil Rights Movement only recently which I feel should be better educated to all. I feel like most children are taught this narrative: the South was unequal; KKK were scary; Martin Luther King marched on Washington and gave great speeches and then everything was better! Yay! Yet as this book--simplified for children--emphasizes, the history of one state alone is much more complex, and I fe ...more
Karen Ball
Feb 13, 2011 Karen Ball rated it really liked it
In 1956, Governor J.P. Coleman signed House Bill 880 which created the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. It was dedicated to the preservation of segregation: separate laws, schools, facilities and even entrances based on race. It created propaganda, including movies that were supposed to show how segregation was good for society. The commission was funded by the state, answered directly to the governor, and used its resources to spy on people in Mississippi for 20 years. Not all of the c ...more
Spies of Mississippi was a book about how the Mississippi State spies put obstacles up to take voting rights and Civil Rights from African Americans. I believe the author did an OK job in expressing what people during the civil rights movement experienced. The book was written in a small section with only 100 pages. The book didn't give a lot of information about different people and different backgrounds during the civil rights movement. This is a very boring and uninteresting book.

There is a
Jan 03, 2011 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen-books
“The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission operated as a clandestine investigative arm of the state government for more than a decade. It compiled secret files on more than 87,000 private citizens and organizations. Staffed by a team of professional agents and funded by taxpayers, the commission had a fundamental mission: to save segregation at all costs” (Bowers, 2010, p. 1). The thought that a part of the government was trying to maintain segregation disgusted me, which made me instantly co ...more
Ms. Yingling
Apr 22, 2012 Ms. Yingling rated it liked it
During the Civil Rights movement, there were a lot of people with positions of power in the governments of Southern states who were adamantly opposed to segregation, and who had a lot of public support from their constituents. This was, after all, the reason that the fight was so heated. People's opinions had to be changed. It is not surprising, then, that the government of Mississippi was originally opposed to segregation and had entire commissions devoted to keeping the status quo, and that wh ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Claire rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: middle school research
As I read the first chapters of this book I admired the writing. The author was obviously careful to bring the reader slowly into the truly chilling subject of this book- the systematic, cynical, violent, clandestine, state sanctioned enforcement of the Jim Crow laws in Mississippi. By the middle of the book the pace had picked up and I was swiftly reading the horrible details of the vicious workings of the commission each chapter focusing on specific projects taken on to stop groups or individu ...more
Aug 26, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it
The Spies of Mississippi, was a somewhat engrossing book. I found that the author organized the book in such a way that, as each new person or event was introduced and recounted throughout the story, he also made connections to previous people and events mentioned. This allowed the reader to remember facts and understand the occurrences. In certain parts of the book, however, I found myself wondering whether what I was reading pertained to the main topic, which was spying. Later, though, the aut ...more
Lori Spadea
Aug 02, 2011 Lori Spadea rated it really liked it
This was definitely not an easy read. I'm not a big history buff, but it was very interesting. I had no idea how far behind Mississippi stayed from the rest of the US when it came to civil rights.
There was a network of spies created by the governor in 1956, to spy on Civil Rights activists, movements, and even government developments.
The state purposely stayed behind in the Civil Rights movement because of so many people in their government and higher powers that were white supremacists. It wa
Paula Griffith
Feb 10, 2011 Paula Griffith rated it really liked it
Shelves: guy-reads
Bowers does a good job with research and organizing factual information to give us a picture of what was going on in Mississippi prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement. He describes how the Mississppi State Sovereignty Commission evolved from an information gathering and propaganda producing entity under Governor Coleman to something entirely different under Governor Ross Barnett. Bowers underscores Barnett's ambition and drive for power as the catalyst that propelled Mississippi into its ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having recently read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, I was curious to read this children's nonfiction title set during the same time period and in the same place as Stockett's novel.

Strongly segregationist, the state of Mississippi developed a secret spy network to block the advancement of the civil rights movement and maintain a segregated society at all costs. The author of this book used recently released documents to help tell this story.

While very interesting because it is largely an unknow
Penny Johnson
If it weren't for my pledge to read all of the YALSA Excellence in YA Nonfiction award finalists, I probably wouldn't have spent time with this book. The writing was not that engaging, and the subject made me very angry.

As a child of the 60's I have strong feelings about the civil rights movement. I was appalled to read of the devious efforts in Mississippi to preserve segregation and Jim Crow laws. I was also grateful to read of the many heroes, including the Freedom Riders, who would not give
Apr 02, 2011 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me preface everything I'm about to say with this fact: I, somehow, checked out a jacked up version of this book. It was the "advance reader's copy" - AKA, mid-edit. Therefore, there were a TON, literally a ton, of mistake, misspellings, typed notes between the author and editor, and other such nonsense.

In spite of all that, it was a very informative book. I learned about this semi-secret group in Mississippi who was in cahoots with the Klan trying to prevent the civil rights movement from su
Saleena Davidson
Feb 05, 2014 Saleena Davidson rated it really liked it
Incredible as it is to believe, Spies of the Mississippi is a factual book. There actually was an arm of the government with a sole purpose of keeping integration from coming to their state. It is a scary look at how far people will go to support their ideologies, even if they are incredibly damaging. This should be required reading for ALL American History classes, and I highly recommend teachers read it and add some of the information to their lessons.......yes slavery and other events in Amer ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Christina rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting true story of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, 1956-1973, and how its operatives and investigators followed integration activists, spying on them, researching their families and doing anything they could to keep segregation intact. I'd known quite a bit about the civil rights movement, but I had no idea there was this level of espionage going on, with informants paid to attend NAACP meetings and report back what activities were being planned, and some of the black ministers we ...more
Jan 21, 2016 Adrienne rated it it was ok
Shelves: teen, nonfiction
During the Civil Rights Movement, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission launched a campaign to prevent integration. Many white Mississippians desperately wanted to maintain segregation, and the Sovereignty Commission was a state-sanctioned organization that launched a widespread propaganda campaign, as well as investigated those that they suspected of being in favor of integration. They also paid off blacks and whites alike to spy on those involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

This book w
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it liked it
A short book about the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and its spying and covert operations against the Civil Rights Movement between 1956 and 1973. While most people know the basic outline of the struggle in Mississippi, some of the details here were new to me. The book is based on the surviving documents of the Commission as well as interviews with participants and other sources. The book is generally good, except for its one-sided treatment of the Kennedy Administration as unqualifie ...more
May 19, 2012 Becca rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
I read this book for a YA LIT symposium I will be taking next month. While the content had alot of information I already knew, I was BLOWN away at the secrets that were revealed and the documents that were there to prove this. This book would make a GREAT classroom lit book with a million lesson plans already flowing out of my brain. I havent searched yet for lesson companions on the net, but Im sure they are abundant. This book has alot of big words that are not used much unless you listen to t ...more
Joseph McNellage
Dec 27, 2014 Joseph McNellage rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An episode from a tragic era

Rick Bowers presents a fascinating account of the activities of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, an agency established by the state legislature in the late 1950s to fight racial integration. The Commission hired investigators to track down negative information about civil rights workers. The Commission reviewed potential jurors for the second trial of the killer of civil rights leader Medger Evers. Through the mid 1960s the Commission engaged in illegal a
Mar 28, 2010 Talia rated it really liked it
This an interesting account of a state-funded agency, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, designed to maintain segregation in the 50s and 60s. Their main source of information? Spies that infiltrated NAACP meetings and paying off members of the black community for secrets. Both fascinating and sickening at the same time, I would recommend this book to older kids and teen readers, despite this being cataloged as adult non-fiction. I also was surprised to read about the death of Medgar E ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Jean rated it it was ok
Explains for middle school readers the resistance efforts of white Mississippians trying to thwart federal decrees of desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s. It's all here: the murders in Philadelphia, MS, legislation to support white supremacists, African-Americans on the side of white supremacists, desegregating universities, Freedom Riders. James Meredith's story is included; however, Clyde Kennard's story (virtually unknown to me) received more exposure and was appalling. Includes epilogue, re ...more
Adult Reader Reaction: My reactions ranged from intrigue to disbelief to outrage. I had no knowledge of the Sovereignty Commission or just how outrageously it (and others) misbehaved. I would add this to my "must read" list for all high school students.

Pros: Everyone needs to read this story about anti-Civil Rights activities in the 1950s and 1960s. It will add depth to their understanding of the time.

Read our full review and add yours at The Reading Tub.
Nikki Bernard
Jul 31, 2012 Nikki Bernard rated it liked it
Spies of the Mississippi was a fascinating read! I had no idea that so much government corruption was going on during the civil rights movement. This is a very disturbing read. Citizens pitted against each other, bribes, secret conversations between the president and the governer--it is all documented in this book. This book could be used for so many project and class discussions! There are enough moral and ethical issues to fuel a debate team for the whole year. I am glad I had the opportunity ...more
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