Review of PBS’ “Spies of Mississippi”: Documentary Takes a Look at the State’s Espionage During the Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Martin Luther King displays pictures in 1964 of three civil rights workers who were slain in Mississippi. (JOHN LINDSAY/AP)
Dr. Martin Luther King displays pictures in 1964 of three civil rights workers who were slain in Mississippi. (JOHN LINDSAY/AP)

State-sanctioned white supremacy did not go down without a fight in Mississippi, and PBS’ new “American Experience” documentary dusts off one of its many troubling battle tactics.

Sensing change in the air, meaning the end of segregation that in reality was subjugation, Mississippi in 1956 created the Sovereignty Commission.

Its official function seemed bland enough, essentially promoting Mississippi’s positive qualities.

Within a few years, it quietly became the state’s unofficial and increasingly powerful spy agency, gathering information on anybody who advocated civil rights or mingling of the races.

By the 1960s this had evolved into a sophisticated and extensive system through which Mississippi not only tracked civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers, but anyone who attended a meeting open to blacks and whites.

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SOURCE: David Hinckley
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS