ACORN Misrepresented? No Change From the 70’s — Groups Trying to Help Miss. Blacks Spied On By Mississippi Sovereignty Commission

BY THE END of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, well over a dozen years after Brown v. the Board of Education followed by the murders of Rev. George Lee, Lamar Smith and then Emmett Till, violence was accelerating in Mississippi. More black people were being killed or turning up “missing” than had been in recent years.

Attempts to destroy organizations trying to stop the violence increased, too. Black Panthers, just coming into the Delta, and small volunteer groups, sometimes church run, were trying to help Mississippi’s blacks either change their conditions or flee the state.

Both the Panthers and the Box Project, the later aiding sharecroppers to physically escape plantations, were perceived much like ACORN in 2009 – their efforts at community organization and related activities often misunderstood or misrepresented.

Fear of northern events such as Watts’s burning in 1965 translated to attempts at halting the Panthers, who in 1969 were quietly trying to organize college students at Delta State University in Cleveland, 17miles southwest of Drew.

Isaac Henderson Shorter of Cleveland returned home from Detroit where he had led demonstrations, hoping to galvanize Delta State students through the Black Panther organization. The Sovereignty Commission was right on it – spying on Shorter, a Delta State student, and others who had “returned from Berkeley with a stack of Black Panther newspapers.”

For an agency two years away from winding down, the returning organizers brought new life to the Commission’s investigations; current archives show 25 files on Shorter, alone.

Here a some links to several of Shorter’s files. Of course, you will find more records by visiting the digital archives hidden away at

Trip out to Berkeley for Black Panther Materials

Draft board information, classifications, on Shorter and others shared with Sovereignty Commission