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Thu May 13, 2021, 08:38 AM


I recently learned of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. White Terrorism went to the top in MS.

“Under (Governor James Coleman’s leadership, the state legislature created the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, ostensibly to “protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi and her sister states’’ from interference by the federal government. In actuality, the Commission was a 12-member watchdog agency designed to monitor any threat to the southern state’s racist way of life. The status-quo-obsessed group functioned like a mini-FBI, mobilizing a vast network of informants to collect data and, over it’s 20-year run, spying on over 87,000 individuals it thought might be challenging Jim Crow segregation. A kind of “cornpone KGB,” as Hendrik Hertzberg called it in a 2010 New Yorker piece.

In her book Reconstituting Whiteness: The Mississippi State Sovereignty Committee, Jenny Irons argues that the agency functioned not just as an intelligence-gathering arm of the government, but also as a public relations tool. Maintaining what Coleman had called the “Mississippi way of life” meant surveilling and controlling the forces for civil rights within its borders, but also liaising with citizens’ councils, business leaders, and other state governments, and adopting a brazen attitude to justify the way things were done. Irons writes that after the NAACP complained that members were being unfairly deterred from voting (often by threats to their jobs or their lives), Ney Gore, the first director of the Sovereignty Committee, wrote to an Illinois senator asking that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee come visit Mississippi. He didn’t believe then-head of the NAACP Roy Wilkins “and his ilk” were accurately representing conditions in the state. “We have nothing to hide in Mississippi,” he said.

According to Irons, the MSSC’s investigators were essentially “race police,” who tracked the minutest behaviors of those they thought were sympathetic to the cause of civil rights. A 1998 AP story about the Commission’s files says the information they contain can “border on the ridiculous.” In addition to lists of license plate numbers collected from parked cars outside NAACP meetings, the MSSC had recorded “where someone bought chicken feed, grades earned in World Geography and U.S. History, even the registration number on a birth certificate.” This was also the height of the Cold War, and investigators were asked to create files for communist sympathizers as well as civil rights activists. Lists of those surveilled contain numerous celebrities, too, including Elvis Presley, B.B. King, the Rolling Stones, Sammy Davis, Jr., and James Brown.

The Sovereignty Commission, which was given a budget of $250,000, used its funding to pay a cadre of investigators and for larger scale activities like participating in the fight against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It threw money behind the defense of Byron De La Beckwith, the killer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Some MSSC staff members also funded White Citizens’ Councils (with $190,000), the notorious white supremacist cells organized to fight integration throughout the South. The Commission even funneled small amounts of money to black supporters of segregation. According to historian Robby Luckett, “They paid money to black Mississippians to infiltrate the meetings of civil rights activists.”


The Commission is best known for its role in the 1964 deaths of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. It happened during Freedom Summer, also known as the Mississippi Summer Project, a volunteer-driven civil rights initiative to register black voters. The three young men (two of whom were white and one black) were traveling between the small Mississippi towns of Meridian and Philadelphia, collecting information about a racist attack on a church, when they were pulled over for speeding. They were briefly jailed for no apparent reason, then released, also mysteriously. When they left town, they were trailed by a mob that included law enforcement officials, then abducted, and murdered execution-style. (The story was dramatized in the Academy Award-nominated 1988 film Mississippi Burning). During the investigation into the men’s deaths, it was revealed that the Ku Klux Klan and two Mississippi police departments were involved in a conspiracy to kill them. Years later, it came out that the MSSC had passed the license plate information of James Chaney (the one black civil rights worker) to the Meridian police, a damning revelation, if not one that actually incriminated the agency in the dark chain of events. Furthermore, Governor Johnson was of little help during the investigation of the killings, even brushing off rumors that the three had been murdered by saying, “Maybe they went to Cuba,” a reference to the perceived communist leanings of the activists.”


These are the kinds of people whom the Trump-infested Republican Party of today admire. They are their heirs.

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Reply I recently learned of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. White Terrorism went to the top in MS. (Original post)
AlRay May 13 OP
underpants May 13 #1
colsohlibgal May 13 #2
dsc May 13 #3

Response to AlRay (Original post)

Thu May 13, 2021, 09:01 AM

1. Very interesting

Thanks. Reagan went straight to Philadelphia Mississippi for a reason.

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Response to AlRay (Original post)

Thu May 13, 2021, 10:25 AM

2. Disgusting

I have a DVD from PBS about the murder of those three kids trying to register people of color. The Police arrested them then they just disappeared. The Police said they had been released.

Eventually those kid’s dead dead bodies were found. Two men were charged and brought to trial. What happened was the release of the kids was coordinated with those men.

The State proved their case in the trial but it was virtually impossible to get 12 White jurors to convict even if they knew the truth back then.

So the men were released then wrote a book describing their dastardly deed.


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Response to AlRay (Original post)

Thu May 13, 2021, 11:10 AM

3. I lived in MS for a couple of years 95-97

and there was a huge debate on whether to release the files the commission had compiled on civil rights workers and others. I am not sure the extent to which those files got released in the end.

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