book review: Spies of Mississippi

Posted on 23 December 2010 Thursday


Spies of Mississippi: The true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement
Author: Rick Bowers
Date: National Geographic Society; 2010

I wonder how long it took Bowers to research and write this slim volume. His bibliography lists an extensive list of reports, articles and books that were consulted to create an authentic telling of how and why the governor of Mississippi allowed the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to form on 1956 and how the Commission grew in scope and power. The book is a quite read that never talks down to readers. While the book is certainly YA non-fiction, the cover led me to expect a book that was indeed written for younger readers. A lack of continuity in the telling, along with a lack of visual elements incorporated into the book may make it challenging for readers who do not have a strong background in this era. I’m a bit surprised that National Geographic published the book without placing more images of people, places, documents and events throughout the pages. There is a center section with black and white photos and an afterwards with images of documents , but the impact is not quite the same.

At the end of the book, the author asks “Could Mississippi really change?” He presents what he has recently seen and answers the question. Taking this one step further would explain why we need books such as Spies in Mississippi, a book which uncovers terrorists activities perpetrated again Black citizens in Mississippi not quite 50 years ago. It teaches us to stay in the know, to question events and search for the back story. “These ghosts whisper that the principles of the past are still with us and remind us that history can always return as the future.”

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Posted in: Book Reviews