Monday, February 15, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Spies of the Mississippi: The true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers

Most of the Civil Rights Movement books I've read are ultimately up-beat in tone. They are, of course, children's books. The specific struggles they address were ultimately won; the Montgomery bus boycott, the removal of segregation. They focus on the courageous people who struggled for freedom and equality.

This book is different. Reading Spies of the Mississippi makes the reader wonder how the Civil Rights movement ever won. How a large group of people, often uneducated, mostly poor, and downtrodden all their lives managed to defeat the government.

The government? Yep. This is the story of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and how, using both white and black informants, detectives, massive government funding, and terrorists, it attempted to maintain the status quo: blacks beneath, whites above.

This is not a pretty story. It's not a simple one either. Paper trails, complex political maneuvering, financial corruption, it's all here.

Verdict: The book is text heavy with only a few historical photos and extensive documentation and resources at the end. It's not a casual read for a child interested in history. But it's a great resource for students studying the Civil Rights Movement and for middle school and high school students interested in this time period. The author throws in as much drama as possible to hold his readers' interest, so adults may find some of the language a little over the top, but the convoluted and dark story is fascinating on its own.

ISBN: 978-1426305955; Published January 2010 by National Geographic; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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