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

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  213 ratings  ·  69 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...more
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by National Geographic Children's Books (first published December 18th 2009)
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Betsy
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
Patricia
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...more
Amy Carr
I would give this book 3.5 stars...it 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
Saleena Davidson
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
Claire
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
Ms. Yingling
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
Karen Ball
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
Lori Spadea
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...more
Jessica
“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
Paula Griffith
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
Kathy
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
Becky
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...more
Jill Guccini
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
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...more
Jill
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...more
Christina
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
Adrienne
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...more
Talia
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
Becca
May 19, 2012 Becca rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Tiffany
This had some jaw-dropping stuff in it. A bit dry for my preference, but an interesting and revealing read, nonetheless.
Donna
Very interesting expose of the secret commission that was formed to prevent integration from coming to Mississippi. Government employees conspired to put a NAACP organizer in prison and murder volunteers who came to register people to vote.

There are some neat documents included at the end of the book, as well as color photographs; I only wish that they were integrated a little more slickly into the overall design. The bibliography at the end is extensive, but not very user friendly for kids and...more
Jean
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
Nikki Bernard
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
Angie
Apr 23, 2011 Angie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: nook
Seriously? I am so amazed that this ridiculousness ever went on. So sad. And disappointing.


The reproductions of a few primary sources were interesting. I would have liked to have seen more (though the narrative will tell you much of it was destroyed). And more photos ... not of violence, of course, but of more of the characters. There were a few at the end. Made it more real.


Definitely useful for studies of Civil Rights and American history.


Could not decide between three and four stars.
Rick Segers
When I ordered this book through the library I did not realize it was a Young Readers book. But books on the subject of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission are so rare I kept it and read it anyway.
There is not a lot of detail though there were stories I had never heard before. Only 128 pages it took me just a few hours to read it. If you have an interest in the civil rights movement in the south, I can suggest this book to you. Just be aware it is written for junior high schoolers.
Suzette Gee
This young adult nonfiction book gives some interesting behind-the-scenes information about the Civil Rights Movement. Specifically, it explains how the state of Mississippi organized their resistance to change. I found the book interesting and a quick read. One thing I didn't like as well was that each chapter was a new story...there didn't seem to be a lot of cohesion between chapters, so it felt a little random. That aside, I learned a lot of interesting things that I'd never heard before.
Phyllis
Ok. Would have liked something deeper & meatier.
Whitney
Finalist for the 2011 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults which honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.

I didn't dislike anything about this book, it just didn't leave me excited or interested in reading more about the subject. To be fair, I read the book about the KKK right before this which was excellent and covered the same time period, but I think this book is only so-so.
Laura Leonard
In Mississippi Civil Rights advocates not only had to fight the known evils of segregation, but also the secret working of the Sovereignty Commission. This was a state funded organization that spied on individuals fighting racial discrimination. The Commission not only gathered information, but it shared that information with white supremicist groups including the Klu Klux Klan.

This was a good introduction to a subject I did not about, but I wanted more depth.
Bdalton
Every American should have some familarity with the Civil Rights movement. This book conveys the dangers that the civil rights activists faced in Mississippi. It describes state sponsored spying and brutality in the state of Mississippi. This is narrative non-fiction at its best. Adding a little more detail could have enhanced the storytelling, but so many teens have so little time. A short, to the point book is just what is needed so many times!
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