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Spies of Mississippi


Spies of Mississippi is a journey into the world of informants, infiltrators, and agent provocateurs in the heart of Dixie.

The film tells the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain “the Mississippi way of life,” white supremacy, during the 1950s and ‘60s. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (MSSC) 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 like National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The MSSC was granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests, and compel testimony for a state that, as civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot says in the film, “was committed to an apartheid system that would make South Africa blush.”

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 its program to bankroll the opposition to civil rights legislation in Washington D.C.

Weaving in chilling footage of Ku Klux Klan rallies and government propaganda films alongside rare images and interviews from the period, 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 assassination of Medgar Evers, and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.

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Featuring:

  • Margaret Block
  • Rick Bowers
  • Kenneth Dean
  • Ralph Eubanks
  • Lawrence Guyot
  • Edwin King
  • Robert Luckett
  • Neil McMillen
  • Jerry Mitchell
  • Bob Moses
  • Janet Moses
  • Congressman Bennie Thompson
  • Hollis Watkins
  • Governor William Winter

Credits:

  • Filmmakers: Dawn Porter and Rick Bowers
  • Radio Adaptation + Host: Anita Johnson
  • Producers: Anita Johnson, Marie Choi, Monica Lopez, R.J. Lozada
  • Executive Director: Lisa Rudman
  • Audience Engagement Director/Web Editor: Sabine Blaizin
  • Development Associate: Vera Tykulsker

 

More Information:

SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI aired on Germany’s ARTE and PBS’s Independent Lens series in 2014. The film was directed and produced by Dawn Porter and executive produced by LOOKS TV and Martina Haubrich. The film was inspired by a book written for young adults by Rick Bowers, who was also a writer for the documentary. You can order a DVD of the documentary on shopPBS.com. There is also a free app with bonus footage, unseen interviews, interactive maps and original historical documents pertaining to the spying available in the iTunes store. You can learn more about Dawn Porter’s other films on trilogy-films.com. Her most recent feature-length documentary is the 2017 Peabody Award finalist TRAPPED which exposes the rise of restrictions on reproductive health. The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, was released theatrically in more than 20 U.S. cities, and featured on Nightline, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

 

Author: Sabine Blaizin

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