*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.