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


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1290L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books; 1 edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426305958
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426305955
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With all the books on the civil rights movement for young people, it’s hard to believe there’s a topic that hasn’t yet been touched. But Bowers, through impeccable research and personal investigation, seems to have come up with something chillingly new. In 1956, the state of Mississippi conceived a Sovereignty Commission that began as a propaganda outlet and morphed into a spy network, with a goal of stopping integration and crushing the civil rights movement in the state. Written with clarity and understated power, the book methodically shows how white politicians organized the network and willing blacks accepted payment to infiltrate groups like the NAACP, or in some cases rail against civil rights organizations in churches and African American newspapers. After the election of Governor Ross Barnett, the commission’s tactics grew bolder, and violence became a part of the mix. Those with knowledge of the era will find this a vivid depiction of those turbulent days, but for them as well as students new to the history the extremes will be an eye-opener. The inset of photographs might have worked better spread throughout the text, but the story is so powerful it hardly needs visuals. Sources, an extensive bibliography, and copies of some of the commission documents (all were unsealed in 1998) are appended. Grades 7-10. --Ilene Cooper

About the Author

Rick Bowers is a journalist, songwriter, and head of creative projects for the AARP. He lives in Washington D.C.

Wade Henderson is the executive director of the Leadership Commission on Civil Rights.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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~Outstanding effort by the author.
Ink & Penner
My teenagers loved this book too - it ties into their growing awareness of social justice and why you have to push back when things are unfair.
Eileen
This is the best book out there on the Civil Rights movement after 1956.
4moreshelflife

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 the Civil Rights Movement" I was (A) surprised I hadn't run across this story before and (B) I was amazed that we now had a book for kids where we see spies used for the ultimate nefarious purpose. Rick Bowers brings to light a story never before seen in a children's non-fiction publication. It's what went on behind the scenes in Mississippi when racism decided to get organized. In it you'll find both stories of unsung heroes and tales of horrendous crimes. This book is many things. Dull, it is not.

Sometimes you hear talk about the mundane nature of evil and nothing is more mundane than the name "Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission". Its activities, however, were anything but humdrum. In 1956, Mississippi state governor J.P. Coleman signed into law a bill calling for the creation of an agency whose sole purpose would be to protect the state of segregation, as it currently existed at that time. Essentially, this Southern state now had its own publicly funded spy program. Over the course of two decades they would infiltrate civil rights organizations, hire spies, gather information, and do everything in their power to fight the change that was coming.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tanjia on February 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful look at history that most of us don't hear about from this movement. I am glad that I ordered the book to enhance my knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jane Doee on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must read for those interested in filling in the gaps about the history of civil rights in the south...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ink & Penner on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
~A short, readable history, from National Geographic publishing, about the State of Mississippi's finely-tuned clandestine efforts of the 50s and 60s to stop the civil rights movement cold. It's understandable and interesting enough for school-agers studying the rights cause...and meaningful enough for adults who can remember the violent period, still with dismay and disbelief.

This book fills in the blanks, connects the dots, and provides answers to questions some of us never thought to ask.

~Informative reading. ~Outstanding effort by the author. ~Fast and fulfilling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eileen on September 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First, I couldn't put the book down. Then I couldn't believe that this occurred in America. And lastly, I couldn't believe I had never heard of this "Commission" before. This book delivers a crisp, clear story of another side of the Civil Rights movement, a story that typically never goes further than marches, cross burning and KKK uniforms. These are stories of average citizens who were ultimately jailed for applying to college or whose businesses were burned, or who were shot in cold blood, all for trying gain equality. My teenagers loved this book too - it ties into their growing awareness of social justice and why you have to push back when things are unfair. I looked up the MDAH web site and read the original spy reports, now digitized. Chilling. A must read for inquiring minds who know there is always another side to history. The photos were compelling too. Give it to your child's history teacher, today.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on August 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movements.
In 1956 newly elected Mississippi Governor J.P. Coleman pass a bill called Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. This bill allowed the state of Mississippi to spy on people so segregation could continue throughout the state.

I was excited to get my hands on this book, it sounded interesting. Unfortunately I was underwhelmed. History isn't one of my strength but still I was left wanting.

Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Many believed Till's murder help bring about the civil rights movement, yet Bowers didn't mention it. It would've made sense to include since many White Mississippians who were determined to keep the state segregated were threatened by the national attention. This fear was probably one of the main reasons behind the spying bill.

The chapters are very short, many facts felt underdeveloped. In chapter four Pipeline, Bowers discusses men White and Black who went undercover to infiltrate NAACP meetings. Bowers mentions two of the Black informants are found out. Though he doesn't go into any detail. I would love to know what Black men and women fighting for equality would do to someone of their own race who betrayed them.

Chapter nine Never Never Land, is about how segregation was allowed to thrive in Mississippi. The chapter ends with Bowers mentioning Dick Gregory.

"Black comedian Dick Gregory, who gained celebrity statue entertaining white and black nightclub audiences and appearing on national TV, charged that the military veteran, college student, and chicken farmer had been framed, railroaded into prison, abused, neglected, and left for dead.
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