Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, State Government Funded Racist Department
The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was a secret state police force operating from 1956 to 1977 to suppress the civil rights movement and maintain segregation. The commission kept files, harassed and branded many as communist infiltrators via agents who were retired FBI, CIA and military intelligence. No one was safe in Mississsippi. A form of the Sovereignty Commission continues today in Mississippi.
Does the story of the Sovereignty Commission surprise you?
Did you have any experiences with the Civil Rights Movement, or another social movement, where you felt your privacy or safety threatened?
Spies of Mississippi tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation during the 1950s and ‘60s. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission evolved from a predominantly public relations agency to a full-fledged spy operation, spying on over 87,000 Americans over the course of a decade. The Commission employed a network of investigators and informants, including African Americans to help infiltrate some of the largest Black organizations — NAACP, CORE, and SNCC. They were granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests and compel testimony.
The film reveals the full scope and impact of the Commission, including its links to private White supremacist organizations, its ties to investigative agencies in other states, and even a program to bankroll the opposition to civil rights legislation in Washington D.C.Spies of Mississippi tracks the Commission’s hidden role in many of the most important chapters of the civil rights movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi, the trial of Medgar Evers, and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.
The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 falls on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. The act paved the way for affirmative action and further desegregation in schools and workplaces across the country. In Denver the African American community faced harsh discrimination and violence throughout their struggle to achieve racial equality. With photos from The Denver Post archive, here is a glimpse of what it was like to be black in Denver at the time of the civil rights movement and following the signing of the act.
1 DEC 12 1968 - Denver Militants Leave Post Office Building After Filing Complaint. Left to right are Sorl Shead, Denver Black Panther deputy minister of finance; Clarke Watson, brother of Lauren Watson, Denver Panther leader; Lauren Watson, and Ronnell Stewart, Panther deputy minister of information. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed2 OCT 17 1963 - A black man looks into a white barbershop, a Stronghold of Segregation in Public Accommodations. Officials say white barbers, by custom, do not cut Negroes' hair. If Negro insists, barber often gives poor haircut. (David Mathias/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed3 FEB 23 1972 - A group of University of Denver students protest what they say is lack of news coverage of minority affairs on the campus by the school's newspaper, the Clarion, by burning copies of the paper Wednesday. About 30 students of the Black Student Alliance took part in protest in front of the student union. Russ Richardson, a DU Law school student and Spokesman for the group, said he and other members of the group would try to meet Chancellor Maurice Mitchell to discuss grievances. (Bill Peters/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed4 OCT 20 1974 - Fats Domino. (John J. Sunderland/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed5 JUN 25 1963 - White and black marchers join hands as they approach the Denver City and County Building Tuesday night during a demonstration to protest alleged discriminatory practices. They came to attend a race-relations conference in Council Chambers. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed6 JUL 2 1969 - Contestants Vie for title of "Miss Black Denver" in Pageant Set Friday at Manual High School. From left, front row, are Julia Sistrunk, 18; Kathy Abernathy, 19; Doris Thomas, 21; Judy Benton, 17; center row, Sondra Francis, 20; Florence Ayres, 22; Sherri Baucom, 22; Mary Gilmore, 18; Doris Boyd, 17. Back row, Melodene Alexander, 17; Beverly Flentroy, 22; Joyce Canaday, 19, and Billye Coleman, 20. Parade will start two-day fete. (Don Goodwin/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed7 JUL 18 1970 - Three Miss Black Colorado candidates are Gloria Lott, Left, Brenda Humburd and Brenda Johnson. Following the convertible is Salvation Army's Red Shield Community Center Zodiac drill teams and pompom girls. (Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed8 FEB 18 1974 - Children head home at day's end. "The word integration is extremely important. I also think hand in hand with that goes quality education. If you let these kids go into a white school and call it quits with that .. it's meaningless." Mrs. Frances Aschkinasi. (David Cupp/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed9 SEP 25 1970 - Jack C. Beardshear, George Washington High School Principal, Gets black Parents' viewpoint. "Who's going to run this school--black students, white students or you?" she asked as black and white parents gathered in hallway after a meeting about two days of violence that closed the school. (Dave Buresh /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed10 SEP 21 1963 - Civil Rights Organizations representatives at parade ordinance meeting. From left: Richard Young, James Reynolds, Edward Shoman, Alan Swallow, William Pinkett, Sheldon Steinhauser. (George Crouter /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed11 JAN 14 1975 - Black legislators lead walkout Tuesday at inaugural ceremonies for Gov. Dick Lamm. State Rep. Wellington Webb, left, and State Sen. Regis Groff leave ceremony as Dick Lamm was preparing to be sworn in as Colorado's 33rd governor Tuesday at the State Capitol. They led a group protesting Lamm's failure to make any appointment to high office from black applicants. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed12 OCT 21 1971 - Virgil Robinson, Foreground, Led Blacks Demanding Action. Group assembled in front of federal courthouse to talk to newsmen. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed13 APR 17 1969 - Paul Chambers, of the Black Student Alliance at CSU, tells a crowd estimated at 500, that President Morgan, right, with arms folded, apparently doesn't understand demands presented to administration. Morgan told audience on grounds at Administration building, more money would be needed to meet stated goals. (Barry Staver/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed14 NOV 2 1969 - Disturbance Mars CSU Football Game. Several helmeted Colorado State University policemen try to break up a ruckus beneath the stands at CSU's Hughes Field during halftime of the CSU-University of Texas at El Paso football game Saturday. A few fistfights and scuffles broke out in arguments over the dismissal of 14 black athletes at the University of Wyoming. Two of the persons in the incident wear black armbands number 14, symbolic of groups supporting dropped gridders. (Barry Staver/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed15 OCT 1 1970 - Dr. Clarence F. Holmes is reflected in a mirror at his desk. (John G. White/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed16 NOV 17 1967 - Highway 80. Roggen Service Station Operator Don Cooper. He says his business is better, but the town's dying. There are more travelers because of new highway. (Monk Tyson /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed17 MAR 25 1971 - Panelists for "Black Awareness Day" at Kent School command rapt attention of capacity crowd of students, grades six through 12, including some from Denver Country Day School. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed18 MAR 25 1971 - Reaction of students from Kent and Denver speakers and panelists as they hear of Blacks winning rights, freedom today. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed19 AUG 6 1975 - (From left) Romie Lilly, Lew Gaither, Wellington Webb, Warren Alexander, Bill Roberts and James Reynolds. Black leaders ask Safeway to maintain store in a first-class manner at all times. (John J. Sunderland/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed20 JAN 13 1968 - Black Panther Leader Discusses Cole Junior High School Ban On Seven Persons Attempting To Attend Teachers Meeting. From left are Mrs. Jean Moss; Frank Bailey, chairman of Denver Congress on Racial Equality (CORE); Lauren Watson, Denver Black Panther party leader; and Joe Boyd, staff member of the University of Colorado New Careers. Boyd and six others were denied admission to a meeting. (Steve Larson/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed21 SEP 6 1971 - Lauren Watson Addresses A City Park Crowd Of More Than 150 During Memorial Rally For “SOLEDAD Brother” George Jackson. Speakers at the Sunday rally charged that Jackson, killed in an attempt to escape from San Quentin prison, was a victim of racism. (Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed22 NOV 3 1968 - Clenched fist raised, Black Panther Lauren Watson denounces Dist. Atty. Mike McKevitt and the Denver Police Department at rally. (Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed23 AUG 12 1969 - Allen (Omar) Holmes Heads Denver Black Panthers. Troubleshooter from Los Angeles replaces Lauren Watson. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed24 JUL 12 1973 - X-Ray Technician Florine Callaway, Colorado's first black pro bowler. (Barry Staver/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed25 NOV 5 1969 - Two men, one identified as a member of the Black Panthers Colorado chapter, sit behind Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Wiles Hallock after an interruption of the WAC meeting Wednesday at Cosmopolitan Hotel. The meeting later was recessed. (Millard D. Smith/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed26 AUG 2 1968 - Herbert Griffin Waits For Delivery of Equipment in Vacant Laboratory. The entomologist has filed new charges of discrimination against agriculture agency. (Bill Johnson/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed27 MAY 9 1968 - Warren Alexander, assistant director of Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and Mrs. Dorothy Wham, chairman of Southeast Denver School Action Committee, listen to an unidentified woman attack a proposal. (Steve Larson/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed28 MAR 31 1978 - Jim Reynolds, Director of the Division of Civil Rights, waits for the House Caucus on Regulatory agencies to begin. (Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed29 JUN 25 1968 - Black marchers walk past Denver Police Building on last leg of march. The group demanded replacement of white officers with black in their area and pledged to offer assistance. (Dave Buresh/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed30 JUL 4 1970 - Jerry Twiggs of Dee and Jay vocal act performs before a crowd estimated at 1,500 at talent show at Five Points intersection. The show, held on Saturday afternoon, was part of Black Unity Days. (David Cupp/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed31 NOV 17 1965 - The Civic Center assembly, from behind the platform, shows the choir in the foreground and torch bearers beyond at the Wednesday night ceremony. The Denver Religious Council on Human Relations gave homage to "martyrs" in the civil rights cause during the hour-long meeting in which some 350 persons, including clergy, participated on a chilly night in downtown Denver. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed32 JUN 25 1963 - Overflow demonstrators wait on the steps after City Council Chambers filled up. They listened by loudspeakers to spokesmen at the race-relations meeting. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed33 JAN 16 1981 - Thespians Do Reading In ‘Nicely Muddled’ Atmosphere At Eden Workshop. The workshop was formed in 1963 as talent springboard for black and Hispanic actors. (Rhoda Pollack/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed34 APR 9 1969 - Members of the Black Student Alliance line stairs of CSU administration building in a quiet, orderly and calm sit-in to call attention to their demands. They want CSU to enroll more black and latino students. Administration officials said a program students advocate would cost $1.5 million more. (Bill Peters/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed35 MAR 9 1965 - FBI Clerk Steps Over Sit-In Group. Demonstrators sat in the hallway of the Denver FBI office for more than five hours Tuesday in a request for sterner federal protection for Alabama race marchers. An FBI investigative clerk here steps over the feet of Mrs. Mamie Whitley, 2295 E. Iliff Ave., left, and Mrs. Sharon Wanner, 2524 S. University Blvd. (David Mathias/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed36 OCT 24 1974 - Editor Marguaret Peterson, Center, Discusses Cartoon With Members Of Black Group. Controversy over cartoon in the Metropolitan State paper arose through differing interpretations of meaning. (Dave Buresh/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed37 SEP 3 1970 - John Rosales, Left, A Candidate For Democratic Nomination As Secretary of State, Addresses "Blacks For Rosales." He said his background and experience qualify him to represent Mexican-Americans and other underprivileged minority groups. (Barry Staver/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed38 APR 4 1981 - Children, carrying signs calling for the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to be named a national holiday, march in a parade Saturday commemorating the 13th anniversary of his assassination. The parade, with about 150 marchers, proceeded west on Martin Luther King Boulevard (32nd Avenue) from Monaco Parkway to York Street, then south to the statue of King in City Park. (Dave Buresh/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed39 SEP 21 1976 - Visiting A Memorial To His Son. The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., of Atlanta, came to Denver this week to see a statue of his late son and to speak at a dinner honoring the Rev. M.C. Williams of New Hope Baptist Church. The City Park statue, unveiled recently, depicts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till, a slain youth whose story helped inspire the younger King into civil rights work. (Dave Buresh/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed40 SEP 14 1979 - Denver policeman protect a flag-waving member of the Ku Klux Klan at 16th street and Court place about 11:45 a.m. Friday during a Chicano march through downtown Denver Kicking off festivities for Mexican Independence Day, celebrated Sunday. One of the marchers in confronted by a policeman, left, as he attempts to approach the Klansman. Shortly after, unidentified Klansman rolled up his sign and flag and left. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed41 AUG 10 1980 - Organizer Quits Klan. Fred Wilkins, the state organizer of the Ku Klux Klan, announces his resignation as head of that organization Sunday to join the National Association for the Advancement of White People, a group recently formed by the head of the national Ku Klux Klan. Wilkins said the Klan has suffered from a negative image and that the new group should be seen as a “pro-white” organizaton instead of an anti-black one. (John J. Sunderland/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed42 MAR 13 1965 - Coloradans mass at the State Capitol for Demonstration in support of Selma, Ala. Marchers are still arriving at the rear at the civil rights rally in which some 5,000 participated. (Dave Buresh /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed43 JUL 28 1963 - Denver Civil Rights Marchers Deposit Letters to Congress. Some 3,000 messages were mailed urging passage of President Kennedy's program. (Duane Howell /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed44 JUL 28 1963 - Marchers Move through Denver in Demonstration backing civil rights programs in Congress. Wayne Knox, head of the Denver Young Democrats and carrying the group's sign, was among some 1,000 marchers. (Duane Howell/The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed45 MAR 9 1965 - 100 Men and Women take part in Boulder Sympathy March. The grim-faced marchers moved from the University of Colorado campus to downtown Boulder in support of Alabama civil rights workers. There were no incidents during march. (Ed Maker /The Denver Post) Photo by Add this to feed