Created in 1956, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was a state agency set up to hinder the progress of the civil rights movement through public relations and intelligence gathering.
Erle Johnston of Forrest was promoted to director of the Sovereignty Commission in 1963. In this frank and detailed interview he describes how he used informants to spy of various civil rights groups. Johnston claims as desegregation became unavoidable, his role shifted from investigator to mediator.
The Sovereignty Commission, a sad chapter in our state's history, was disbanded in 1977 and its files ordered sealed for fifty years. Johnston explains why he feels that the files should have been destroyed.
In 1989 the Sovereignty Commission files were ordered unsealed and can be viewed online through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.