.... of silver. I am breathing so hard. My chest is rising and falling. I can barely catch my breath after watching the PBS Independent Lens program: The Spies of Mississippi. They name names. Black men one would never DREAM would betray us the way those... whatevas.... betrayed not just the Civil Rights Movement, but their own people - the black people of Mississippi. Prominent among the race traitors were: 1. A leader in the National Baptist Convention 2. The Vice President of the NAACP 3. The publisher of one of the most influential black newspapers in Mississippi For your consideration.... As one black Mississippian put it: 'There's America. Then there's the South. Then there's Mississippi' It all began with: The Mississippi Sovereign Commission In 1956, the Mississippi State legislature enacted a bill that was signed into law by the governor of the state entitled "The Mississippi Sovereign Commission." Mississippi whites comprised approx. 50% of the population and Mississippi blacks comprised approx. 50%. By State law, they were segregated in almost every aspect of life; even in those aspects in defiance of American Law. The Mississippi Sovereign Commission was set up to ensure this perpetual segregation where whites rule and blacks were subservient. The Commission started with Public Relations films showing blacks working placidly in cotton field, women wearing shade hats and nice dresses, black men working in separate jobs from whites, tall black men answering to short white (pot-bellied) bosses, each seemingly respectful to the other, ad nauseum. Every Mississippian, they postulated, was happy in their "place." Mississippians of every race lived happy, productive lives and no one of either race wanted the Mississippi way of life to change. In another film, they show the (black) Rev. J.W. Jones, pastor of a New Albany, MS church and publisher of a state-wide newspaper who "affirms" the love and mutual respect of black and white Mississippians where there are "White Only" and "Black Only" signs over every public convenience, including "paper cups" in dispensers for a sole water fountain labeled "Black Only"/"White Only" (see cute little black girl taking her paper cup from a Black Only dispenser). In the beginning, the Mississippi Sovereign Commission was a small agency under the control of the Governor or Mississippi. Its staff consisted of professional law enforcement charged with keeping track of Civil Rights groups in the state. Any black person who registered to vote in the eyes of the Commission, was an enemy of the State of Mississippi. Blacks who rented from a white person were evicted. Blacks who worked for a white person was fired. Yet thousands of black Mississippians defied the state that was committed to an apartheid system that would make South Africa blush. At the helm of this system was the Mississippi Sovereign Commission. Within 4 years of its inception, when the Civil Rights Movement was coming on strong, the Commission transformed itself into a full-blown spy agency. It started off small with a couple of agents, usually state police investigators and retired FBI agents who were the core investigating Civil Rights activists and in the main, the NAACP. One of its first victims was Clyde Kennard, a native-born Hattisburg, MS black man whose "crime" was to apply to Mississippi State College, an all-white institution (the few blacks who attended college did so at HCBUs and other black institutions - in 1960, only about 5% of blacks, nation-wide, held college degrees. In Mississippi, the percentage was even lower). The Commission had multiple agents investigating Kennard, his family and friends. They investigated Kennard's time in Mississippi, his time in Chicago (what schools he attended, his friends, etc.), his relatives in Chicago, his time in the military, the reason he returned to Mississippi, i.e., his mother was sick (one of the many reports noted that there was no marriage license of Kennard's mother and step-father on file in Mississippi and that they were probably living "common-law" - that's how deep they dug). With an exemplary background, thus nothing to deny his application to attend a state college, the Commission had its agents plant $20 worth of chicken feed on his parents' chicken farm, then arrest Kennard for theft. An all-white jury took 10 minutes to find him guilty. Kennard received 7 years at hard labor on a chain gang in Parchman Prison, the worst and most notorious prison in the United States. When he became terminally ill with cancer, the racists released him from prison, though he was not given a pardon. 3 months later, Clyde Kennard was dead. All this because he applied to go to college. Clyde Kennard (June 12, 1927 – July 4, 1963) was an American civil rights pioneer and martyr from Mississippi. In the 1950s, he attempted several times to enroll at Mississippi Southern College (now known as University of Southern Mississippi) to complete his undergraduate degree started at University of Chicago. USM was still segregated and reserved for European Americans. After he published a letter about integrated education, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission conspired to have him arrested on false charges. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years at Parchman Penitentiary, a high-security prison. Although he was terminally ill with cancer, the governor refused to pardon him, but released him in January 1963. After 2005 and publication of evidence that Kennard had been framed, supporters tried to secure a posthumous pardon for him, but Governor Haley Barbour refused. Kennard was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1927; he moved to Chicago at the age of 12 to aid his injured sister, Sarah. he was also a brave young African American. He stayed and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School, then entered the U.S. Army. After serving as a paratrooper during the Korean War, as a veteran he returned to Chicago and started college at the University of Chicago. In 1955, after completing his junior year, Kennard returned to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to care for his stepfather, who had become disabled and needed help. Kennard purchased land in Eatonville to start a chicken farm. He taught Sunday school at the Mary Magdalene Baptist Church. On three separate occasions (1956, 1957 and 1959), Kennard sought to enroll at Mississippi Southern College, one of Mississippi's premier institutions, which was still segregated and had an exclusively white student body.   Mississippi governor James P. Coleman offered to have the state pay his tuition elsewhere in the state, but Kennard declined. He preferred that college as it was the closest to his home, a major factor given his family situation. In Brown v. Board of Education (1955), the US Supreme Court had ruled that segregation in public educational facilities was unconstitutional. On December 6, 1958, Kennard published a letter in the Hattiesburg American newspaper. He wrote that he was a “segregationist by nature” but “integrationist by choice,” and gave a reasoned explanation as to why segregation in education was impractical and bound to be replaced by one integrated system. Zack Van Landingham of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission urged J. H. White, the African-American president of Mississippi Vocational College, to persuade Kennard to end his quest at Mississippi Southern College. When Kennard could not be dissuaded, Van Landingham and Dudley Connor, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi lawyer, worked together to suppress his activism. Files from the Sovereignty Commission, which were opened in 1998, showed that its officials considered forcing Kennard into an accident or bombing his car. IMPRISONMENT The Sovereignty Commission conspired to have Kennard framed for a crime. On September 15, 1959, he was arrested by constables Charlie Ward and Lee Daniels for reckless driving. After he was jailed, Ward and Daniels claimed before Justice of the Peace T. C. Hobby to have found five half pints of whiskey, along with other liquor, under the seat of his car. Mississippi was a "dry" state, and possession of liquor was illegal until 1966. Kennard was convicted and fined $600. He soon became the victim of an unofficial local economic boycott (also a tactic of the Sovereignty Commission), which cut off his credit. Kennard was arrested again on September 25, 1960 with an alleged accomplice for the theft of $25 worth of chicken feed from the Forrest County Cooperative warehouse. Kennard went to trial, with the accomplice, Johnny Lee Roberts, testifying that Kennard paid him to steal the feed. On November 21, 1960, an all-white jury deliberated 10 minutes and found Kennard guilty. (At this time, because of having been essentially disfranchised and unable to vote in Mississippi since 1890, blacks could not serve on juries.) Kennard was sentenced to seven years in prison, to be served in Parchman Penitentiary, a high-security facility. Despite his alleged role in the crime, Roberts was given five years' probation and freed. Years later, Roberts testified under oath that Kennard was innocent: "Kennard did not ask me to steal, Kennard did not ask me to break into the co-op, Kennard did not ask me to do anything illegal." Just after the conclusion of the trial, Mississippi NAACP official Medgar Evers was cited for contempt after issuing a statement that the conviction was "a mockery of judicial justice." Evers was fined $100 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, but on June 12, 1961, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the conviction. CANCER AND DEATH While imprisoned in 1961, Kennard was diagnosed with colon cancer and taken to the University of Mississippi hospital for surgery. The medical staff recommended that Kennard be put in their custody or that they be allowed to make regular visits to check on his condition.[citationneeded] Authorities sent him back to Parchman Prison, where he worked as a laborer. Civil rights leaders in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, embarked on a campaign to secure Kennard's release. After the story gained national attention in 1963, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett gave Kennard an "indefinite suspended sentence. Kennard was released on January 30. The comedian Dick Gregory paid for his flight to Chicago, where he went for medical treatment. He twice underwent surgery at Billings Hospital on the University of Chicago campus over the next five months, but died of cancer 10 days after the latter procedure. On July 7, a funeral service for Kennard was held at Metropolitan Funeral Parlor in Chicago. A poem he wrote on April 16, 1962 was read to the congregation. Sensing his limited lifespan, he titled the poem, "Ode to the Death Angel:" Oh here you come again Old chilly death of Ol' To plot out life And test immortal soul I saw you fall against the raging sea I cheated you then and now you'll not catch me I know your face It's known in every race Your speed is fast And along the way Your shadow you cast High in the sky You thought you had me then I landed safely But here you are again I see you paused upon that forward pew When you think I'm asleep I'm watching you Why must you hound me so everywhere I go? It's true my eyes are dim My hands are growing cold Well take me on then, that I might at last become my soul Three days later, he was buried in his family's plot at Mary Magdelene Cemetery in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.