Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Neighborhoods
  3. Places & Faces

Spies of Mississippi : A Sordid Tale of Infiltrating the Civil Rights Movement

See also

That the FBI kept tabs on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders has long been known, but J. Edgar Hoover’s G-Men were mere kindly observers when compared to the super-secret undercover gang recruited by the governor of Mississippi. That team was ordered to infiltrate, sabotage, undermine and recruit traitors who would discredit and derail the civil rights movement and its leaders. These Spies of Mississippi, whose story is revealed in the film of that name debuting on PBS, were the spear point of an attempt to derail desegregation and maintain white supremacy.

Spies of Mississippi is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern Time on Monday, February 10.

According to evidence uncovered and presented in the film, in the 1950s Mississippi formed a Sovereignty Commission, whose dozen prominent, powerful and secretive members wielded immense investigative and extrajudicial power. Their tentacles reached into almost every police and sheriff’s department as well as every courthouse in the state, and also manipulated newspapers and civic organizations in a well-coordinated war. Their weapons ranged from blackmail, libelous mud-slinging and propaganda to physical intimidation and even murder.

Drawing on evidence that had been sealed by state order for 50 years and has only now been revealed, Director Dawn Porter and her crew expose this very dark and scary side of the battle waged against those who believed, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it, that the time had come to collect on the promissory note written by Thomas Jefferson that “all men are created equal.”

Spies of Mississippi is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern Time on Monday, February 10. Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) will air Spies of Mississippi at 10 am on Sunday, February 16. Connecticut viewers who are able to tune in PBS stations in New York and Boston, however, will be able to watch the show when it premieres Monday evening.

Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, historian and game designer. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at
…or his blog at
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at
To read more pieces by Mark G. McLaughlin become a regular subscriber; just click on the “Subscribe to get instant updates” button at the top of the page. Examiner's editors pledge that subscribers