After the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 mandated the desegregation of schools nationwide, the legislature in the state of Mississippi created the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, the basic mission of which was to prevent integration in that state. This book is an investigative history of the Commission, other government agencies (including the FBI), and organized crime, all of which conspired to break the law in dealing with civil-rights and antiwar activists during the 1950s and 1960s. The author uncovers new information about the efforts of FBI agents to combat integration and exposes the longest-running conspiracy in American history.
Bound to rekindle anger over recent American history, this tersely written investigative account attempts to show how such forces as the so-called Dixie Mafia, together with such high-level institutions as Hoover's FBI, sought to halt integration in the South after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. Southern writer Dickerson (North to Canada: Men and Women Against the Vietnam War) focuses on the secret spy agency, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, which engaged in a slew of Keystone-cop-style tactics and dirty tricks over 17 years, including the planting of slanted stories in the media; the monitoring of the investigations of three civil rights workers slain in 1964 in order to unearth 'troublemakers'; and setting up a private bank account with the 'ability to launder money from private benefactors.' The commission was advocated by Mississippi senator James Easton -- who had stumped the state by trumpeting 'You are not required to obey any court which passes out such a [integrationist] ruling. In fact, you are obligated to defy it' -- and created in a 1956 bill submitted by Governor J.P. Coleman. Though Dickerson does a good job of detailing the commission's ugly excesses, much of his book is a rewrite of previously documented hate crimes and corruption with a not entirely credible conspiracy spin and too many 'confidential' sources.
Journalist Dickerson presents an investigative history of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, created by the state legislature in the 1950s with the goal of preventing integration in Mississippi. He also explores the roles of other government agencies (including the FBI) and organized crime in their dealings with civil rights issues and antiwar activities during the 1950s and 1960s, arguing that their combined effort to combat integration is the longest-running conspiracy in the United States. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
An incredible, infuriating expose of the abusive power of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, whose recently unsealed files reopened old wounds from the '60s.'Dirty' isn't nearly harsh enough to describe the 20-year reign of intimidation and deceit perpetrated by the secret state agency founded to defy the Supreme Court's order for school desegregation. Dickerson, a veteran journalist and author of Goin' Back to Memphis (which studied the influence of organized crime and politics on Memphis music), traces the commission's genesis in 1955, its escalating use of unlawful tactics (including spying, dirty tricks, media manipulation, and forced conscription of political enemies) in the '60s, its eventual demise in the '70s, and the growing movement for full disclosure that resulted earlier this year in the opening of nearly 87,000 personal files. It's a bizarre story, involving organized crime, Presidential and Congressional politics, assassination conspiracies, and government corruption of sickening proportions. Dickerson's wide-ranging investigation, though focused mainly on the commission, also contends that the group shared tactics and information with the FBI and the U.S. army, both of which compiled secret files on millions of Americans (black and white) involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Dickerson suggests the commission was involved in the deaths of civil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney, and the assassination of Martin Luther King. He also insinuates (though later backtracks) that the commission, through ties with a southern Mafia kingpin, may have been involved in a conspiracy to kill John Kennedy. Such serious accusations demandserious documentation—the lack of which is the glaring flaw of Dickerson's expansive, immensely provocative work. Skimpy endnotes and a reliance on unnamed sources for the most dramatic assertions (that Memphis mobsters wanted King dead because his anti-war stance threatened their profits from dirty defense contracts, for example) are disappointing. Still, a blockbuster indictment not only of southern intransigence and racism, but of the corrupt way power works in America.