With help from descendants of Rachel Knight such as Dianne Walkup and Florence Blaylock, I have revisited the two photographs (see above) that I identified as being Rachel in my book, The Free State of Jones. Through Florence, I first learned that several descendants no longer believed, or had never believed, that the photograph on the book’s cover was Rachel. Well, no author likes hearing that! But, as a historian committed to publishing the truth, I knew I had to consider these opinions.
At first, I reasoned that the other photo published in my book which identifies Rachel and Newt Knight sitting side-by-side (see above) shows a woman who strongly resembles the woman in the cover photo. So, doesn’t that suggest that these are photos of Rachel, I asked? Well, after that things got even more interesting. Several descendants, among them Dianne Walkup, reported that the couple in that photo is not Newt and Rachel at all; in fact some family members are certain that it is Newt’s son, Joseph Sullivan (Sill) Knight, sitting with one of his two wives, either Sarah Welborn or Mollie Hodges.
You know, I have never really thought that the man in that photo looked much like Newt Knight. But several Knight family members do believe that it is him, and another Knight researcher says that it doesn’t look like Newt only because he had shaved his beard off while serving in postwar politics. So what is the truth? Perhaps readers can help.
At this point, I confess that I am pretty well persuaded that we, or at least I, simply don’t have a picture of Rachel Knight. But I would still like to know who the people in those photos are. Dianne Walkup believes that the cover portrait is actually of Lessie Knight, George Ann’s daughter and Rachel’s granddaughter. That is certainly plausible. There is a photo of a very young Lessie in The Free State of Jones in which her face appears almost identical to that of the woman in the cover photo. What do others think?
And about the photo of the couple: are there any descendants of Joseph Sullivan Knight out there who might be able to identify that photo one way or the other?
Update, 10/13/2014: When I visited this past spring with Knight descendant Dianne Walkup, she expressed her belief that the photo shown on the cover of The Free State of Jones, is, after all the disagreement, a true photo of Rachel Knight. And so, it seems, there may always be disagreement among descendants–and that’s okay with me.