Abstract

Drawing from archives, oral histories, interviews, and Boyd’s own writing, this article considers the fascinating story of Stanley Boyd, a white volunteer born in California who went undercover in Clarksdale, Mississippi, during the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964. Armed with his whiteness, a typewriter, and a carefully crafted cover, his mission was to acquire as much information as possible about the city’s power structure in order to assist civil rights activists on various fronts. With this research he also completed a master’s thesis. Situating Boyd in the surveillance culture of the 1960s, one dominated by the FBI, COINTELPRO, and the informants used against the movement, this essay explores how movement organizers utilized multiple strategies, even espionage, playing back at their enemies with their own game via the unadvertised and scarcely documented “special project.” This essay also expands the scope of movement activism beyond purely reactionary or protest-driven activities to include careful planning and strategizing to yield information for the most impact.

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