National Archives at Kansas City

National Archives to Offer Screening of -Spies of Mississippi-

Press Release: January 21, 2016

National Archives to Offer Screening of Spies of Mississippi

Presented within the 20th Century Civil Rights and Liberties Film Series

For More Information Contact:
Kimberlee Ried, 816-268-8072

Kansas City (MO)…On Thursday, February 4 at 6:30 p.m. the National Archives at Kansas City will screen the documentary Spies of Mississippi. Post-film discussion will be led by Dr. Rebecca Miller Davis of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A free light reception will precede the film at 6:00 p.m.

It is the spring of 1964 and a long hot Mississippi summer is about to explode. The civil rights community is gearing up for a major operation nicknamed Mississippi Freedom Summer. Hundreds — if not thousands — of mostly white student activists from the North are preparing to link up with dozens of mostly black freedom workers in the Magnolia State to accomplish what the Mississippi power structure fears the most: registering black people to vote. The state’s entrenched white power structure has a different name for Freedom Summer — they call it an “invasion” and they are ready to fight back. For the segregationists Freedom Summer is nothing less than a declaration of war on the Mississippi way of life. The state responds by fortifying its Highway Patrol and 82 county sheriff offices with hundreds of newly sworn-in deputies, stockpiling tear gas and riot gear in larger cities and preparing prison wardens and county jailers to expect an influx of summer guests. However the most powerful leaders in the state have another weapon in their arsenal — a secret so well kept it is known to only a small circle of insiders: The state of Mississippi has entered the spy business. A no-nonsense group called the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission has quietly created a secret, state-funded spy agency answering directly to the Governor. The Commission has infiltrated the civil rights coalition, eavesdropping on its most private meetings, and pilfering its most sensitive documents. The spies’ method of obtaining such sensitive information can be traced to an even more explosive secret known only to a handful of state officials that oversee the Commission and its anti-civil rights spy apparatus. The Commission’s most potent weapon is a cadre of black operatives who have infiltrated the movement, rooting out its future plans, identifying its leaders, and tripping up its foot soldiers. This program is part of a series presented in partnership with the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group.

Reservations are requested for this free film by calling 816-268-8010 or emailing kansascity.educate@nara.gov. Requests for ADA accommodations must be submitted five business days prior to events.

The National Archives at Kansas City is home to historical records dating from the 1820s to the 1990s created or received by Federal agencies in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information, call 816-268-8000 or visit us online.

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LPM/LE-KC 16-04

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