5. Mississippi Sovereignty Commission: Surveillance, Corruption and Violence

5. Mississippi Sovereignty Commission: Surveillance, Corruption and Violence

Beautiful Agitators Lesson Plan: Scene Five


LESSON: Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: Surveillance, Corruption and Violence

Background: The scene in which Vera Mae Pigee was arrested in her home by Clarksdale Chief of Police Ben Collins was based on both Vera Mae Pigee’s account in her autobiography Struggle of Struggles as well as reports from the Mississippi State Sovereignty Comission (MSSC).

Students will utitilze primary and secondary sources to gain a foundational understanding of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.


Students will review documents accessed through the archive/repository for MSSC reports and documents as well as other primary sources to critically evaluate the role of the MSSC.

  1. Students will gain awareness of the formation and founding of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (MSSC).
  2. Students will analyze primary source materials to investigate the ways in which the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission violated the rights of Black citizens in their attempts to gather and collect information regarding participation in civil rights activism.
  3. Students will compile the ways in which the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission collected personal information regarding members of the civil rights movement with intent to disrupt the work of the civil rights movement.
  4. Students will outline the means by which the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission worked to corrupt and collude with local law enforcement to threaten, coerce and endanger civil rights activists and their associates

Students will be able to answer the following questions:

  1. How did the MSSC gather information about civil rights movement leaders and their activities?
  2. How did the MSSC and their collaborators utilize counter-tactics as a means to intimidate and threaten their targets?
  3. How did law enforcement fail to investigate and charge perpetrators of violent acts against Black citizens?

ACTIVITY: Knowing Your Rights in Interactions with Law Enforcement: Student Led Community Panel Discussion

There is a complicated history of law enforcement in the United States which is highlighted in Beautiful Agitators by the use of survelliance, intimidation and threats during the Jim Crow South. The KKK and White Citizens’ Council and surveillance and counter-tactics employed through the work of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.

  1. How do you reconcile the legalized racial segregation of the past?
  2. How does trust erode if there is no accountability?
  3. How do you rebuild an institution that has been tainted by corruption?
  4. How do you exercise your civil rights?

Students will devise a plan to create a panel discussion to address the historic issues of policing in the Black community in the United States past and present.  Students will develop questions as a group regarding: knowing your rights, racial profiling, use of police intimidation, qualified immunity, distrust, efforts for reform, police perspectives, etc.  Students will open the panel to community members such as historians, policy makers, police reform organizations, police public relations officers, etc. Students will find a location to host this event or plan for a virtual panel discussion.  Students will create promotional materials to inform the public of the event. 










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