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

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  348 Ratings  ·  97 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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
Mrs. Hassig
Jan 23, 2016 Mrs. Hassig rated it really liked it
Think you know everything there is to know about the Civil Rights Movement in the South? Ever heard of the Mississippi State Soveriegnty Commission? Can you believe Mississippi actually had spies, paid for by the state government, to propagandize and sabotage the move towards equality for ALL Americans black or white. Using thousands of primary sources including witnessess, photos, and documents, Bowers weaves a very frightening tale of our nation's past and hopefully not our future. Fantastic n ...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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
Talk about backwoods Mississippi. This book reveals a lesser-known aspect of the civil rights movement, in which the state of Mississippi worked to destroy the civil rights movement and maintain white supremacy, using an elaborate network of spies and informers, including, sadly, using willing black citizens. It's hard to believe how stubbornly anti-desegration people were back in those days. It hurts to read this book but it's important to know this was part of our history.
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
Sep 14, 2014 Roohi rated it really liked it
I recently read the Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Right movement. I am not a big fan of non fiction but when I read this book I really liked it even though it is not like a typical fiction book it does not have characters instead it talks about what the Commission was and has facts. But the author takes you through a timeline and makes the facts connect to the time period even though it is a short book it is worth the read. For both peopl ...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
Apr 07, 2015 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
"Spies" is an interesting, informative Y/A book that is a quick read for those interested in learning more about the civil rights movement and the spy network of the segregationists. It made me even more appreciative of the brave citizens who stood up for the rights of all, even risking their very lives to do so.
Jan 16, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
This book had the potential to be fascinating. It covered an intriguing aspect of the era of the civil rights movement about which I knew nothing. However, while it gave lots of facts and covered who, what, when, and where, there wasn't much of the why aspect that is needed to make such accounts engrossing.
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
Sep 05, 2014 Diane rated it it was ok
It was an interesting read. It went into more details of the government involvement dealing with the end of segregation in Mississippi. I just picked this book up because the cover caught my attention. It was a good tie in with Fire and Rain that I was also reading.
Aug 14, 2014 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
I think the book was written very well and contained lots of details. My students especially loved the illustrations that were included. We followed up the book by watching the PBS documentary. My students ranged from 4th - 6th grade.
Feb 07, 2016 Rosy rated it liked it
Interesting nonfiction piece about this secret spy group in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. I definitely learned a lot because I didn't even know of its existence... I love reading and learning about the tremulous road that the country went through before achieving civil rights for African Americans.
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