Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission

Here’s another reason why many Americans refuse to have a conversation about race—like reconciling a dysfunctional relationship, one or both sides get to discover more about the trifling stuff each other did! Shee, and who wants that?!

Except there’s a big difference—what black folks wanted during the civil rights movement was far from trifling. You can’t call a desire to attend any school in Mississippi under the assumption of equal access to education, as a trifling act.

However, sending a man of African descent to prison just because some folks didn’t like the idea of him applying to the same college that White kids attended, practically invents the Tragically Trifling Manual of Style.

Further, Establishing a state government agency to investigate and destroy the lives of people with the same stated or inherent equality ideals of the aforementioned young man, is almost beyond the capability of a literate person to describe.

Prepare to have your mind blown by the latest artifact for The Race Conversation That May Never Happen: the Dawn Porter documentary, Spies of Mississippi. The film will be streamed from the PBS website until March 12.

Given its breath of life by State legislation in 1956, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was charged with defending Mississippi’s segregation laws from federal government intervention and from civil rights actions committed by Mississippi’s residents or visitors. The Commission’s tactics included infiltration, defamation, and more indirectly, murder.

Victims of the Commission include Clyde Kennard, a Black Korean War Veteran, whose simple act of submitting an application for admission to Mississippi Southern College (now University of Southern Mississippi) was viewed by the Commission as an affront to segregation, as well as a threat to the state’s way of life. The Commission – unable to find dirt on Kennard after extensive background investigations by several agents hired by the commission – planted county-owned chicken feed on his Mother’s property, charged Kennard with theft, and sentenced him to prison for seven years. He died from cancer before fully serving his time. (PDF)

The stories can become more chilling. The Commission, through its network of spies inclusive of private detectives and African American double-agents, kept track of all civil rights supporters in the state by recording names, addresses, vehicle license plate numbers, as well as the targeted supporters’ whereabouts. The information was compiled and shared with newspapers or local police departments—where a not-so-trivial number of the latter was infiltrated by the Ku Klux Klan. Remember Chaney, Goodman & Schwerner? The Commission knew where the trio’s bodies were buried while Federal agents searched the state for months.

I’ll say this in case you won’t: state-sponsored terrorism. Spies of Mississippi has no shortage bombs to drop.

You can always buy Spies of Mississippi If you can’t stream the film before March 12. I would consider the act money well spent…

song currently stuck in my head: “zingaro” – joão gilberto


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