Multiracial Families/Communities

The Multiracial Knight Women During the 20th Century

By Vikki Bynum

Newt Knight’s political career was short-circuited by his open embrace of his mixed-race descendants. The essay, “Negotiating Boundaries of Race and Gender in Jim Crow Mississippi,” which appears as chapter six in The Long Shadow of the Civil War, explores the legacy of that decision.

Lessie and Grace Knight, sisters, circa 1930s

Lessie and Grace Knight, sisters, circa 1930s

This essay extends the Knight saga well into the twentieth century by focusing on several Knight women, but especially the sisters, Anna, Gracie, and Lessie, who personified the struggles and triumphs of being female as well as multiracial in the segregated South. The centerpiece of the essay is Anna Knight, who carved out a remarkable international career as a teacher and a Seventh-Day Adventist missionary who spent many years in India.

Anna’s steely determination shaped the course of many of her kinfolks’ lives as well as her own. In 1898, she established an Adventist-sponsored school and two Sunday schools in the Knight community. Under her tutelage, many of her relatives gained educations and converted to Seventh-Day Adventism. 

Anna Knight of Oakwood College

Anna Knight of Oakwood College

While education and religious faith were important tools for combating racial prejudice and segregation, other Knights, including Anna’s sister, Lessie, opted instead to identify with their European or Native-American heritage, and to ignore or deny African ancestry. Under segregationist terms, they were “passing,” but under their own terms, they were choosing the ancestry that fit their self-image and afforded them the same opportunities for self-fulfillment that “white” Americans enjoyed.

NOTE: For my legal analysis of the “one drop rule” of race, click here.


120 replies »

  1. By chance is this Knight connected with the Tonawanda also known as the Smiling People of Senaca also desendent of the Goins?My Knight was migrated to Privateer,SC in the early 1800’s

  2. Hello Mr. Rhame. To my knowledge, the Knights of Jones County, MS., are not connected to the Knights of S.C., or to the Goins family branches. Newt Knight’s grandparents, John (Jackie) Knight, and Keziah Davis, were originally from North Carolina. Both sets of their parents migrated to Georgia, probably shortly after the American Revolution. Jackie Knight migrated to Mississippi after serving in the War of 1812.

    Have you looked at the work of historian Paul Heinegg? He has done a lot of work on multiracial families, including Knights and Goins, and much of his work is on the internet.

    Thanks for checking out this site!


    • My mother is Tinia Mae Knight, daughter of Robert (Bob) Knight and Melvina Jones. She is 86 y/o and knows of Newt Knight and a lot of the sad and ugly stories that go along with that era. I would love to gather as much of our lost history as possible for her while she still lives. I also have an Aunt that is still in MS that will be 103 y/o this year and still has her mind. Thank you. (815) 573.6472

      • Hello Diane. My name is Anthony Bender, I am the grandson of Lenora Knight Bender daughter of Lanzie Knight, Aunt Tinia Mae’s brother. I have been following the comments on this site for quite a while and just came across your post. We (Lenora’s descendants) have been trying to connect with our family across the states. I was just at my cousins wedding in Dallas, TX and quite a few of the Knights from Chicago were in attendance and we spoke about planning a reunion. I wanted to be at Aunt Lavada’s 103rd birthday celebration but unfortunately it conflicted with the wedding. If you don’t mind I would like to connect with you and share the contact information that I have for other members of the Knight family. You can reach me at

  3. Might a make one minor (or major correction) in your post. John “Jackie” Knight was not Newton’s father, but his Grandfather.

    Albert Knight, Sr. is Newton’s father. born 1799-1862/MS. His wife was mary Mason Rainey born 1805 in NC and died in 1868/MS.

    They had two son’s and it is told that Newton killed William because William received the bequeath of Rachel from his Grandfather John Jackie Knight; but Newt wanted her because he was in love with Rachel.

    • Thank you for pointing out my mistake, which I just corrected. Just a little brain slippage there, lol! I know that Albert Knight was Newt’s father, and that Jackie was his grandfather, and identify them as such in my book, The Free State of Jones.

      Do you believe that story about Newt killing his own brother William? There are several wild stories about Newt, and this seems to be one of the wildest. Anyone else ever heard it?


      • Like everything else about my family, there are rumors and then others who step up with “factual” evidence — supported by “legal” documentation. I spoke to my aunt Dorothy Knight-Marsh, and she seems to recall this as well. Florence Knight-Blaylock is also another resourceful person, whom you have already met.

        I will ask around. The family is having it’s annual alternate year Family Reunion this Summder 7/16 – 7/19 in SoSo, MS.

        Thank you for all your research and work regarding the “facts” — we all must make our own resolutions to accepting our fate as heirs of such a mysterious couple in an unfortunate era of social history and status.

      • I agree, Benita, that there will always be questions and rumors regarding the lives of Newt, Rachel, and Serena. And there will always be mistakes–I’ve made my share–that we can only diligently strive to correct whenever necessary.

        Since I had never heard the rumor that Newt killed his brother, William, I went back to my files to gather whatever I could in the way of genuinely factual information. First, it is a fact that William W. Knight moved to Arkansas before the Civil War broke out, so he was not living close to Newt during the war when Newt became involved with Rachel. Second, no one has ever found any record that indicates William was murdered. Knight family genealogist Eldon Knight, in fact, has recently found evidence that William was alive in 1870 in the Ashley County, Arkansas, manuscript census. Eldon did not find him in the 1880 census, indicating that William died during the 1870s (by then, Rachel and Newt had been together for quite some time.) Finally, Newt’s grandfather, Jackie Knight, did not bequeath Rachel as a slave to William. In his 1860 will, which is on file in court records, Jackie bequeathed Rachel and her son, Jeffrey, to Jesse Davis Knight.

        Many of the internet tales that get passed around today as factual are referred to as “urban legends.” Maybe the many tales whispered about Newt Knight should be termed “rural legends.” I can see why they all got started, since even the true stories about him–the ones that can be documented–read like fiction, too! That’s what keeps his and Rachel’s stories in the spotlight. As you say, they lived very unconventional lives in an “unfortunate era of social history.”

        I hope this forum will prove a great place to separate fact from fiction, at least as much as is possible given the imperfect state of past records.

        Thanks again,

    • Benita…. were the Shelby’s and Musgrave’s there too? ( in Chicago) if so my mom was telling me about the reunion.

  4. My mother father was Knight. I was born and raised in SoSo, Ms. I have heard a lot of stories about Knewt Knight in growing up. I also just happens to be black. I have known for years that whites and blacks in SoSo were somehow related.

  5. I was just wondering about the family reunion in Soso, MS, if anybody has any information about that can you please let me know. Thank You!

    • Gina, I think it begins on the 16th of this month. If any family member has the full information and would like me to post an announcement, I’d be happy to do so.


    • Hi Vikki and Gina. The 16 anniversary of the KnightBooth Family Reunion is this week. I am Anna Knight’s great niece, Newton’s third generation granddaughter of the mixed race Knights.

      Copy and paste the link which will give you detailed information.

      While I will not be there, feel free to ask for my father Benny Knight or brother Byron Knight who are both from Los Angeles, CA.

      My uncle Robert (Bobbie) Knight will be hosting the Friday Fish Fry and Sunday Social Gathering.

      Welcome — glad to reconnect with family. Thank you Vikki for this venue. God bless!

  6. I’m a Barnett My Grandfather sister married a Knight so some of them are my cousins. My cousins are Shelby’s, Musgroves,Jones , Moffet Everyone in soso are related I believe.

  7. I have been searching for a book detailing the knights of soso, ms. I am not sure if this it the book are not. This man which last name is knight was my great great grandfather which is white he had two family a white family and a Black family. I am trying to learn more about him but do not know were to start, some of my ancestor are Speeds, Musgroves, Barnes that live in soso, collins, & mt.olive, Ms. Asking for guidance to were i can start.

  8. Welcome to Renegade South, Cassandra. There is quite a bit of history on the mixed-race descendants of Newt Knight (who I presume you are referring to) in both my book, The Free State of Jones, and my new book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War.

    The Knight descendants who comment on this website should be able to give you great guidance on doing further research on your family.

    Best of luck,

  9. My father’s name was John Floyd Crosby. His mother’s name was Louise Knight and both were born in Soso,Ms. Use to visit there as a kid for summer vacations. My Aunt Virgie always talked stories about Newt, but for some reasons my father never talked about it. Been to a couple of Knight/Booth reunions also. Very Interesting to know where your from. When my brother and I were young and went to Soso for a funeral or something. And my dad would introduce a family member, me and my brother would think they were white.

  10. Hello Vikki,

    Unfortunately, my newest laptop crashed on me (again) and I have been working feverously trying to get my files off the hard drive. As I told you in a previous email, I am working on a narrative about Harriet Carter Ward and her connection to the descendants of Rachel Knight. I am particularly interested how these two sets of descendants of John “Jackie” Knight and his slaves are related.

    Anthony, your great great grandmother was Mary Florence Magdalene Smith. She married John Madison “Hinchie” Knight, son of Rachel and Newton Knight. Maggie Smith was the daughter of Lucy Ainsworth and Warren Smith of Bezer, Smith County, MS. Lucy was the daughter of Sampson Jefferson “Jeff” Ainsworth and his slave Martha Ann Ainsworth.

    There is a narrative on this blog that relates the story that you should read.

  11. Hi Yvonne,

    It’s good to have you back on board here; sorry to hear about your computer problems!

    Thanks also for replying to Anthony Crosby. Anthony, to see one of the narratives on this blog that relates to your family network, click:

    There are other relevant posts as well, so you might type your family’s names into the search box on Renegade South’s front page and see what comes up.


  12. Hi Yvonne,
    I’ve been awol for a while but now i’m back. I am a descendant of Harriet Ward Carter. My great grandfather was her son Andy Knight. From the oral history I have received throughout the years, Andy was by far the partiarch of nearly all the black Knights in the Soso, MS community except for the so called “white Knights”who were the direct descendants of Newt. As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s, I did not know all this great, interesting history was being shaped. My siblings and I used to visit Sidney Knight and his wife Allie who served the community as a noted midwife. The picture I saw of Sidney, Amos and their siblings sisters in one of your articles really helped to give clarity to stories told by my elders. I am thrilled to know that you are researching great great grandmother Harriet and her son Andy. Even though the Knights are a relatively tight-knit group, there is history that suggests it was not always that way. Anyway, the younger set of Knights and Knight relatives are eager to see what you will discover and or uncover. We’ll be anticipating your historical summation of the history of Harriet Ward Carter and her descendants.

    Dale m. Knight
    Jackson, MS

  13. First may I say this is a most intriuging subject renegadesouth. Anthony and Gina I’m sure we are related I am from the William Claiborne Crosby “branch”. I’m interested in a woman named “Lou” quite possibly Louise Knight possibly married to Isom or Issam Crosby. Please excuse my ignorance I’m relatively new to the Crosby/Knight family connection as it were. Would appreciate more information thanks. Some background I recently attended the 12th annual Crosby Family reunion and there was very little written information on Isom/Issam. I noted that Anthony ref: Louise Knight and John Floyd I was wondering if Mr. John Floyd and Issam/Isom are related or possibly the same people. and Finally, the Knight family posts here are absolutely facinating in and of itself and because I have met many of the Speeds, Keys, and Booths.

    • Hello Richard, I am familiar with the Crosby family to an extent. I have an 84 year old mother and her 89 year old aunt who are both orators of the Crosby lineage. The are decendants of Cephas. In the Knight crosby connection there was Marshall Crosby, Curtis Crosby and their sister married a Knight from Soso.

  14. Isom Crosby married Louise “Lou” Knight, daughter of John Madision “Hinchie” Knight and Mary Florence Magdalene Smith. Lou Knight Crosby died in 1952. Lou’s younger sister, Audrey Knight, married Curtis Crosby. Curtis was the sond of Fred Crosby, brother of Isom Croaby. Curtis and Audrey owned and operated a small cafe called the “Greasy Spoon”. in Soso. Isom and Fred’s parents were Cephus and Harriet Crosby of Covington County, MS

  15. Greetings to all. Thank you in advance for any information anyone can provide. I am trying to:
    1. Understand the overall relationship between the Knights and Crosby families.

    2. Are there any other relationships known to exist between other siblings of Cephus and Harriet’s children to the Knights? Namely, might there be a Dona or Charity that was a member of the Knight Family.

    Kind Regards to all!

  16. I have not researched the Crosby’s beyond Isom, Fred and Curtis who married into the Knight family. I do not have a Dona or Charity in my family tree file. Who were their parents and when were they born?

    • Dona, also known as Donia, Donie, and even Davis on the 1910 census report due to a misspelling. She is listed as Donie Ainsworth on the 1910 census. She is 24 years old and widowed with 3children, and living with her brother, James Keys and his family. You will find her later in 1920 census as Dona Crosby, married to Liley also known as L.C. Crosby. She brought her two (or three) children into the marriage, and bore several children with L.C., my mother Barbra Nell is the baby of the clan., L.C. also known as Liley is brother to Isom, Fred and Curtis.

      • Ok. Thanks! Very helpful. I am researching all this for my wife. I do not have my notes with me, but know that I had attempted to trace the Keys/Keyes family as well, if memory serves me correct somewhere in time back to North Carolina possibly? My wife is a Crosby, but exact geneology escapes me…I believe Ance Crosby is her great-grandfather. Dona, as I recall, was difficult for me to research.

      • acrosby, you’ve gotten my attention. My name is “Kenny L Keys,” and I’ve written several genealogy books about my own family’s history and lineage, but I’ve not included the Keys lineage passed my great grandmother Belle, who sold Samuel, her son and my grandfather (her middle child), to a White man for 50 cents to slop is hogs and tend his fields. I’m told that she did this because she and the rest of her children were starving, because slavery had ended and freed slaves that stayed in the South found it hard to find paid work. I don’t know the names of any of Belle’s other children, because my grandfather hated and despised Belle and the rest of his siblings, because he lost his childhood and freedom (after the abolishment of slavery) as a form of an indentured servant because of them. I had an uncle named James Keys, but I doubt that it is the same James, since he was born well after the 1920s. Belle is the only link that I have to my Keys connection. Tell me more about this James Keys and family. Note: books about Abraham Miller and Felix Blackwell are mines. My current two published scrapbooks are “United States’ 1920 Census and World War I Registry Repudiates That Felix Blackwell Is White (Mini Book)” and “Descendants of Mulattoes Who Look White.” The book “Abraham Miller/Phillip Blackwell Genealogy Scrapbook” is a hard copy, and it’s only available via the Indiana State Library’s Genealogy Division.

        Forgive any grammatical error and misspelled words found in this post.

  17. More information on Dona Crosby:

    I failed to mention, in my earlier post, that the information on Dona Crosby is directly from my mother who is 82 years old and is Dona Crosby’s youngest child. Dona passed away when my mom was a toddler, and she says she can somewhat remember Carlie, Gatha, Elisha who were her aunts and uncles. We cannot remember how Charity fits into the picture. I once found her listed as the female adult of the family, along with my mom, my aunt Johnnie Mae, and I believe uncle Ezell, who are my mom’s siblings who are closer to her age. As I said, she is the baby of the entire clan. She believes that her Grandmother’s maiden name was Harriet Eastland. I have nothing to back that info up. Another tidbit is that my mom was delivered by midwife, Allie Knight, as documented on her birth certificate from Jackson County. They were living in SoSo at that time.

    • Greetings:
      I will have to find my notes before being of any value, and will need to revisit this– but my recollection was a similar issue with Charity, although I thought I found a early 20th cent. Census listing L.C. as one Liley Charity Crosby (male)….married to Dona….and Charity alone a mistaken person. However, your information seems far more advanced then mine. I was hoping to trace the Crosby line to pre-Emancipation. Have you had any luck with this? BTW….are you a Crosby by marriage or birth?

      • Hello Ben;
        I am a Crosby by birth. Dona is my grandmother. My mom, Barbra Nell is Dona’s youngest child. Dona had two sets of children, one set is by a gentleman, last name Ainsworth. She bore two or three children with him, but it appears she is a widow at 24 years old. She later married Liley, also known as L.C. Crosby and together they had several children, the youngest is my mom. I will have to see how far back I have gone, if my information is correct, it would be pre-emancipation. I will have to put everything back together with the sources. My mom has said that Dona’s last name was Keys and that Dona’s mother’s name was Chaney Keys. I cannot seem to get very far with the Keys line. I am currently on the waiting list to be invited by to the DNA project. I will be sure to keep you updated on what I find out.

      • I have some information for you, my user name on is bkruse5 if you look me up. I would like to share.

      • Hi Ben,

        Tried to find you on, was unable to do so, probably because I did not know what I was doing. My user id on is LORRAINEHARPER95, hoping you will try from your side to pull my account up. I am sharing my family tree there. I will continue to search for you there.


      • Ben and A. Crosby:

        Thank you both for sharing your family information on Renegade South–I’m sure your information has helped others as well as yourselves!


    • acrosby2, you may disregard my request for more information on the Keys line, since I’ve read one of your posts further down this thread that states “I cannot seem to get very far with the Keys line”

      • Hi Kenny, I am still searching for information on the Keys line, and promise you that if I find anything of help, I will pass it on to you.

    • @acrosby2, I am familiar with some of the names that you have listed. Aunt Carlee married Jonas Keys. Aunt Gatha lived in Soso/Gitano and she married a Ducksworth. My great-grandmother was their sister and she was named George Ann; Cephas was their father.

      • Hi Minerva’s grand, Your great grandmother is my mother’s aunt. My mom’s father is L.C., or Liley. (I know you are aware of the various spellings). Would you have any history on his wife Dona Keys? She passed while my mom was a child. Also, I emailed you a few pictures and obituaries. Hope they help. My mom’s name is Bobbie Nell. She and her next older sister, Johnnie Mae were the babies of the family and it is very hard for me to find them on any of the census records. I once found them living in Louisiana, but that was years ago when I first began the ancestry hunt and I haven’t been able to find them again. At that time, there was a woman named Charity living with them, but there was no last name or information on her.

  18. I have found a J. Crosby and H. Crosby on the 1880 Census, District 111, in Jasper County, MS. The household includes a sister, R. Eastland and a child transcribed as T. Crosby but could be L. Crosby. I believe that this is the father and mother of Isom and Fred who married Knights. Cephas is a shortened form of the name Jocephas or Josephas. Sometimes former slaves spelled it Joe Cephas. District 111 was located in the same area that Newt Knight resided. BTW, there is someone researching this family who has “accidentally” connected parents of Cephas to a family living in Ohio.

  19. As this is not my direct line, I don’t want to spend too much time on this family,r you, so I am giving these clues for your continuance. It appears that Josephas/Cephas Crosby was born in Jasper County, MS and his parents were Charles and Riller A. Crosby. Riller is listed on the 1900 Covington County, MS census records in Oakohay as a widow. This family is listed as mulatto. BLM records shows that Cephas purchased land in Covington County, MS on 10 Apr 1894.

    • Thank you, I was once linked into the line in Ohio, but like you, I am starting to believe the Rillar Crosby line is the one I should be linked into, could not get the birthdays and dates of death to concur in the Ohio line.

      • I’ve located a ‘short’ history document that lists the names of Charles Crosby of Bay Springs marrying Arilla Green. They had 12 children. Charlie, Issam, Lero, Cephas, Sherman, Sissero, William Clayborne, Bell, Della, Hanner, Lissa & Liza. They lived throughout Jasper, Jones & Covington Counties.
        There will be a family reunion held in Florida during the summer of 2013 in honor of tose in this lineage.

      • It is so exciting to hear from someone who has more information on my mom’s family line. I know that when I share the info you included from your “short list ” she will no doubt remember something. Also, that list gives me lots of leads in my research. Thank you so much. Best regards, Lorraine Harper

      • I happy to be of assistance to you Lorraine. Please send me an email at the address above in parenthesis. My mom very likely knows your mom.

  20. Awaiting my invitation from to enter DNA testing. When I receive the results, will be sure to post them here. Lorraine

  21. Ben, I was able to find your information you were referring to on It does not appear that the “Charity” mentioned is the one I am looking for, also there was no source to verify him or her. Thanks

  22. Hi am a caucasion descenant of the Knight’s. William Knight is my Great-great Grandpa. From what I gather Newt would be my uncle. Can anyone tell me anything or point me in the right direction?
    I was raised by my grandparents that migrated from soso to the coast but they can’t tell me much due to old age and health

    • Katie,

      Thanks for writing. Newt Knight did have a brother named William W. Knight who, according to Knight genealogists, was born about 1829, moved to Arkansas before the war, and died there sometime after 1870.

      According to Kenneth Welch, this William married Sarah Jane (surname unknown), who was born around 1834 in Georgia. Their children included 1) Mary, (1850-1934), buried in Judson cemetery in Ashley Co., Ark.; 2) Altimirah, b. about 1851, married a Davis, had a son and two daughters; 3) Felix, b. about 1855 in Hamburg, Ark.; buried in Zion Cemetery in Ashley Co., Ark.; 4) Milly, b. about 1859 in Hamburg, Ark; had one son, Ben; 5) James Thomas, married Ida Carroll. 6) Emily, married Elmer Gardner. 7) Frances (Fanny) b. about 1870, married John N. Adair. Buried Zion Cemetery, Ashley Co., Ark.

      Does this match anything in your records? If not, perhaps you are descended from Newt’s uncle, William H. “Pap” Knight, son of John “Jackie” and Keziah Knight, b. 5 March 1812, married Mary (Polly) C. Youngblood.

      Hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have more questions or information.


      • Yes pap would be my 4 time grandfather I’ve been trying to find out more information about William Martin “Dickie” Knight whom is supposed to be his son(my great grandmas father)

      • Katie,

        I interviewed two descendants of William Martin “Dickie” Knight while researching The Free State of Jones, Earle Knight and DeBoyd Knight. Both talked of Dickie’s strong Unionism–emphasized that he liked to laugh and say he “would be the only Yankee buried in Big Creek cemetery!” Dickie was part of Newt’s Knight Company until Col. Lowry’s raid on them. He then fled to New Orleans, where he joined the Union Army.


  23. I am the great great granddaughter of Newt Knight. Oree Knight is my grandfather and Madison “Hinchie” Knight is my great grand father who is the sone of Newt Knight from Rachel Knight. I am part of the Mixed race Knight’s born through the line of Newton and Rachel. There is rich history about our two family lines and while many people disagreed with this union it does exists. William “Jackie” Knight was William and Newton’s grand father and this is when the mixed race side of the Knight clain was fostered.

    Today, for the most part I would concede that people have accepted that realtiy that Newton had idealistic views of a different type of society and while the South and other parts of the land frown on miscegnation — the realtiy is we are all connected through this line. I’m personally glad to know my heritage and rich history that flows through my blook and encourage each of us to “embrace” the blessings of this union. Glad to meet you

  24. Benita,

    it’s good to hear from you again. I agree with your sentiments; however, didn’t you mean to identify Newt Knight’s grandfather as JOHN “Jackie” Knight, rather than as WILLIAM “Jackie” Knight?


    • Hi Vikki, yes I did mean John “Jackie” Knight as Newton’s grand father. Fingers were typing too fast and I could not edit after I sent my response. It is so good to see how our family is reconnecting and discovering additional branches to our family legacy. Great to hear from you – thank you for keeping our legacy alive.

    • I don’t know much except for he owned a sawmill and lost a leg while working.. he did have two wives the first one died during a storm a chimney blew over and killed his first wife and their 2 year old daughter. maybe he could have been his neph.. im not sure the name sarah seems familiar except they lived somewhere in the soso area not in arkansas. Im trying to find out more. I have a mixed family of my own and i want my children to know their history and to appreciate it, and to know that everything doesnt come easy and the hell our family caught 200+ years ago.

  25. This blog is so very rare and such a valuable resource for descendants of Newt Knight, who was a very rare man. Newt was certainly ahead of his time, especially living in Mississippi. My own family on the “Blackwell” side has never been claimed by Kip Blackwell and White descendants, but we know of our connections to him, regardless of the open acknowledgement.

    • Thank you for your remarks, Kenny. This blog has surpassed the hopes I had for it at the time I launched it. Because of contributions from readers such as yourself, it’s a place where people can pool individual knowledge and stories that contradict common stereotypes about relations in communities and neighborhoods across the South. As a result, we’re getting a far broader picture of kinship across racial lines.


  26. What interesting information! My research says that there are Knights all through my family tree, as I am descended from Ervin and Mary Welch Ellzey.. What is surprising to me is that my research shows that Newton’s wife was named Serena, and Serena Knight is listed as the wife of Daniel Pitts, my great great grandfather. Is this the same Serena? I have started reading the book, but once I found this site I got sidetracked!

    • Hi Lyn,
      Thanks for your comment; I’m glad you’re enjoying the site!

      To answer your question, the Serena Knight who married Daniel Pitts was not the same Serena (maiden name Turner) who married Newt Knight. According to my files, your Serena was Serena Margaret Knight, the daughter of William H. “Pap” Knight and his wife, Mary C. Youngblood. Wm. H. Knight was a son of John “Jackie” Knight, and thus was Newt Knight’s uncle.

      Serena Margaret Knight Pitts was the sister of William Martin “Dicky” Knight, who joined Newt Knight’s guerrilla band after serving at Vicksburg, and later joined the Union Army.

  27. Thank you so much for clearing that up. It is wonderful to hear the vague stories I have heard as a child begin to match up with names both in geneology and historical accounts. My 83 year old father remembers living with his great grandfather, Daniel Pitts, and seeing his head injury from the Civil War. Since many of my father’s extended family members (Ellzey/Welch/Knight/Butler) have lived to be very old, I feel privileged to have this rare connection to history. Dad was a history major and we are enjoying these historical discoveries today. He began reading your book today and couldn’t put it down. Thank you for your fascinating reseach. I am hooked.

    • I am a decendent of Cephus Crosby who was the son of Charles Crosby and Arilla (nee Green) Crosby. This is a reunion that moves around the USA and it’s being held in Tampa this year. Are you a decendant of this lineage?

      • Charles Crosby and Arilla Green Crosby are my great-great-grandparents. Cephus Crosby’s son, Liley (L.C.) Crosby is my grandfather. It is unlikely that I will be able to attend the reunion this year, but would like to receive any information being sent out, circumstances could possibly change by then.

    • Hello Harold, my name is Benita Knight. I am a descendant from the mixed race Knight’s of Newton Knight. Our next family reunion will be held July 19-21 in SoSo, MS. Hope you can make it.

      • Hello Benita,

        I so wanted to attend the reunion last year but I couldn’t make it due to other committments. I moved to Texas in the early 90’s and traveled extensively with the government and I believe the last reunion that I attended was in 1993 or 95. I have been trying to connect with the family members in younger generation (35-55) order to keep the legacy and the family bond tight. We are planning a cousins celebration this October in Vegas as a reconnection for some and an introduction for others. We have Knights on board from Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Texas, Mississippi and Chicago so far. I really hope you get this message and we can spread it to throughtout the family. Feel free to text or call to 210-776-8125 or email at I look forward to hearing from you.

  28. Hello. My birth name is Becky Crosby and Marshall Crosby was my grandfather. Marshall’s father was Fred Crosby and my father is Don Crosby. Looks like I just missed the reunion but I want to stay connected and learn more. Any contacts or information would be appreciated.

  29. I’m trying to find information on my Great Grandmother Almeida Crosby.. I thinks she was a knight?? maiden name. She was married to my great grandfather Fred Crosby.. son of Sephus and Harriet Crosby. .thankyou .

    • Hello Stanley, as far as I can determine, there is a 1910 census record which lists Almedda Musgrove, age 13, a Mulatto female living with her parents John Musgrove and Marthann Musgrove. The name for Marthann is also shown as Martha Ann Musgrove and Martharm Margrave. As you know, the various spellings are possibly from transcription errors. Also living in the same household are, members of the Knight family. I believe that Marthann, (Almeda’s mother), was a Knight. There is actually a marriage record for a John Musgrove and Miss M. A. S. Knight with the marriage date of March 9, 1896. The original document is in Jones county. (I believe she would have married at age 13). Hope this helps. Also, if you will e-mail me your address, I will be happy to copy and send you the census record and the record on the marriage information. My email address is

      • could you send that information to me, please? The information I have been able to gather about my heritage says that Almedia Knight Married Samuel Gibson Owens. Her parents come up as Daniel Champion Knight (Parents John Jackie Knight and Kiziah Davis Knight) and Elizabeth Helen Coleman. My email is

      • Many, many people have the same names. If you can obtain a date of birth it would likely be helpful. The Almedia Musgrove mentioned above was married to my Uncle Fred Crosby and they lived in Soso, MS.

      • Almeda Jane Knight Owens , b. 14 April 1844, was daughter of Daniel Champanois Knight and wife of Samuel Gibson Owens

        Almedia Musgrove Crosby b. 17 March 1897, was daughter of John Musgrove and Martha A. S. Knight and wife if Fred Crosby. Almedia’s grandparents were George Madison Knight and Frances “Fan” Knight.

  30. Almedia aka Medie Musgrove was the daughter of John Musgrove and Martha Ann Knight. John’s parents were Rose Holifield ,a mixed race slave who had several boys by John Madison “Mat” Musgrove, the brother-in-law of her owner, Jonathan Holifield. John’s siblings were George Frank, Samuel, Jackson and Lawrence Bigey. They also had a half-sister named Rushia. Almedia’s grandmother was Fan Knight, daughter of Rachel and Jesse Davis Knight and her grandfather was George Madison Knight, son of Newton Knight and Serena Turner. Martha Ann’s siblings were Henry, Gailie, George Monroe, Fred Norton, Alletha, Claude, and Rachel Dorothy.

    • Yvonne all knowing about the Knight Family. She could have been a consultant for the movie. More power to you, CUZ, in the broader sense of the word, if you know my meaning.

  31. wow, thank you so much.. i have a picture of her when she was a young woman sitting with her husband Fred. There is a picture of her sitting with two long braids in an indian style. It was thought through my father and his brothers, who are the sons of Arlan Crosby her son, that there was a native American connection. Now I don’t see that through this post.. …. Since this information has been so helpful, I was wondering the bloodline of Fred Crosby. My father wants to know how alot of the land in soso was left to his Grandmother Almeida and his brothers.. .thank you so much

  32. Hello all, my name is Wiley Lewis and I am following your conversation here. The 1900 Census also have information on John, Martha A and Mida Musgrove (3 year old). At the time, they lived in Soso, MS near some of my relatives. My sister, Doris Lee Crosby, (we have different fathers) dad was Richard Charles Crosby, son of Lilia Crosby and Dona Keys and the grandson of Cephus & Harriet Crosby. I have pictures of Fred & Almedia’s headstone taken in the M.T.P. and S.D.A. Cemetery.

    Stanley, you mentioned land in the Soso area, I have a spreadsheet showing a list of land grants awarded to people in Jones County, MS (Range 13W). There are several people with the name of Crosby and Musgrove listed on the spreadsheet that might be of help.

    You also mentioned a Native American connection, as many of us have these stories about the makeup of our families. I took the advice of Yvonne Sondra Bivins and had my DNA tested. I was very surprised as well as enlighten about my composition in America and before we came here. I have other documents that may be of interest in your research.

    If I can be of help to anyone, my email address is:

    • Hello Wiley,

      My mom is Bobbie Nell Crosby, she is the baby of the Lilia and Dona Keys clan. She is now 84years old and due to a stroke about 20 years ago, her memory of her past comes and goes. I am so happy to hear what uncle R. C.’s initials stood for. I vaguely remember him when I was a small child when he and uncle J. C. (James Cephus), picked me up and took me to Chicago for a visit, (probably 55 years ago). There is a Crosby reunion planned for June 27, 28 and 29 in Collins Ms. It is for the descendants of Josephus and Harriett Crosby. My email address is

  33. I just came across this page while researching my family history. Seeing some of the names mentioned here has sparked my interest. From what I have been told, my paternal grandfather’s name was Fred Crosby (of Irish decent? ) and my paternal grandmother, Almeida Musgrove, whom I was told was of the choctaw or Cherokee nation. My father, Earl Crosby was born in Laurel MS in 1920, but there is no birth record of him on file. From what I have also been told, there are still many Crosby’s in the Soso area. Does anyone have any information they would be willing to share?

    • I am a distant cousin of yours and I can provide you with additional information on Fred and Almedia Crosby along with many more of the family members. There are still several members in the Soso, MS area. Fred was not of Irish decent. His mother Harriet was an Indian and Sephus his father was a Black man. We have biennial reunions on the Crosby side during each odd numbered year.
      Here is my email address in order for me to provide you with additional information.

  34. You can find out about the Crosby Family at the Facebook group “Descendants of Sephus & Harriet Crosby” which is located at the following web site:

    Once you get to this web site, contact your cousin, Cynthia Beasley, who not only was the coordinator of the Crosby Family Reunion this past summer, but she is also a great reservoir of knowledge on the Crosby Family’s history.

    • Thank you Wiley! I am just waiting to be accepted on to the page at this point. I look forward to finding out about my family, as I was never given much accurate information growing up.

  35. Almedia Musgrove Crosby was the daughter of John Musgrove and Martha Ann S. Knight. Her maternal grandparents were Fan Knight, daughter of Rachel Knight and Jesse Davis Knight, and George Madison Knight, son of Newton Knight and Serena Turner. John Musgrove was the son of John Madison Musgrove and Rose Holifield.

  36. Kenny L. Keys my grandmother is Mary Carolyn Blackwell Keyes daughter of Virgil “Virgie” Blackwell. Virgil’s parents are Felix & Mandy Blackwell from Covington County Mississippi. I told her about your books. I will be purchasing them soon. She remembers Felix being mixed. I would love to connect with you. I sent you afriend request on Facebook.

  37. Newt Knight is my great great grandfather… my great grandfather is John Madison (Hinchie) Knight youngest son of Newt and Rachel. And my grandmother is Louise Knight Crosby daughter of Hinchie Knight

  38. Facinating posts!!! I am a descendent of Sampson Jefferson Ainswiorth and Lucy Ainsworth. (Yavonne Bivins according to my DNA is determined to be my 4-6th cousin). Being a newbie at genealogy research _ I have not found my line as yet but however seem to be breaking some ground as am finding all types of surnanes through out my family history such as Shelby, Musgroove, Duckworth and even two grand daughters of Harriet Carter Ward who are connected through I search for my roots and uncover a past I never knew I had!!!

      • Lucy Ainsworth, it turns out is my 3rd great grand aunt. I’ve seen one other of my relatives discussed this post. Lorraine Harper aka (acrosby2), her grandmother Dona Keys is a 1st cousin, her father Allen Keys is my second great grand uncle…

  39. Hello, all! Thanks to Vikki for this site and your extensive genealogical research. I signed up for a trial of today and decided I’d try to find out where my Crosby family line (my mother’s side) crossed with the Knight’s. Fred Crosby and Almedia Musgrove Crosby were my great grandparents. So based on what Sondra has said, it seems that Rachel Knight is my great-great-great-great grandmother on Fan Knight’s side, and Newt Knight and Serena Turner are my great-great-great-great grandparents on Fan’s husband George Madison Knight’s side. But I’m wondering if this Rachel Knight is the same one who was married to Newt? It gets confusing because I am looking at someone’s Knight family tree on ancestry, and many people have the same name (Rachel Knight, Keziah Davis, etc.). Also wondering if there’s more info on Jefferson Davis “Jesse” Knight? Any leads are appreciated!

    Thanks, everyone! And so funny, I see my uncle posted on here recently 🙂 If there are any upcoming reunions, please share!


  40. Also, huge congratulations on optioning your book for a motion picture deal. I’m a budding filmmaker myself and can’t wait to see this amazing story on the big screen, even more so now that I know it involves my ancestors. Very exciting!

  41. I have had my DNA tested and it shows both John “Jackie” Knight and Keziah Davis Knight as possible DNA matches. Many of my ancestors migrated south from NC. The Pickens to South Carolina and the Knoxes to Georgia. However, I can not make the link to the Knights. Does anyone know this connection?

    • On my chart of John “Jackie” Knight, I show that his granddaughter, Caroline Amanda Knight, married Richard Thomas Welch. Richard, I show, is a gggggg grandson of Elizabeth Knox, the daughter of John Knox, the Reformer. Although, I really have no idea if this is info for you!

  42. I am trying to establish the Musgrove family history. My grandfather and great grandfather’s name was Willie Musgrove and are listed as ‘mulatto’ on census records. If anyone is able to help with tracing the Musgrove lineage, it would be very much appreciated.

  43. Hello I’ve just watched the movie “free states of Jones” but after reading all your comments I realize that I’m a little bit lost : I red in another of your article that Newt Knight ´s grandfather had several slaves but in the movie Newt Knight seemed to be a poor farmer of the deep south fed up with war and injustice. He didn’t want to fight anymore for the rich slave’s owner. So my question is : are we talking about the same Newt Knight or not ? (Sorry for my bad english I’m a french writer who loves your articles so much , I’ hope you’ll understand what I mean
    Sarah from France

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for asking your questions, which are quite lucid despite French being your first language! I think the first point to make is that movies can never tell a story with the complexity that a full-length book can and should. For that reason, the movie’s Newt Knight is indeed incomplete. Newt led a band of anti-Confederate guerrillas that was comprised mostly of small farmers who did not own slaves. Newt himself was also a small farmer who did not own slaves, and neither did his father. However, Newt’s grandfather, John “Jackie” Knight was one of the largest slaveholders in Jones County; his ownership of 22 slaves made him one of that county’s richest men and biggest slaveholders. It appears, however, that Newt’s father, Albert, chose not to join that class, and that Newt followed suit.

      Newt’s own words in a 1921 interview indicate that he did not turn against the Confederacy as a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” until during the battle of Corinth. It’s my theory that his class consciousness grew from what he saw at Corinth, which is consistent with what the movie portrayed. According to that same interview, Newt opposed secession from the beginning, as did most Jones Countians, who voted against it. Still, the fact is Newt volunteered for service in 1861. He appears to have disliked slavery and to have believed (as did his slaveholding grandfather) that secession was crazy, but I think his hatred of the Confederacy as a slaveocracy grew during the war.


  44. Hello. My great grandmother on my moms mother’s side, was originally a Knight. Ruth Catherine Knight, daughter of Frank Stanton Knight and Addie Moore Knight. William Knight (Newton Knights brother) is buried in our family cemetery in Ashley County, AR, called Egypt Cemetery. I’ve heard from other family members that Newton Knight would be an uncle of ours. I’d like to know more and if this is factual information. I know all the knights that are buried there are all family.

      • Hi Briana,

        Newt Knight did have a brother named Thomas (born 1823), but he had a son named Thomas J. (Jefferson) Knight, born 1860. You need to provide more information on your Thomas J. Knight to determine where he might fit into the Knight family. Good luck!


  45. I have been looking through my family history and I’m trying to find out more about each relative but there’s one I just can’t seem to find anywhere. My search for my GG Aunt has brought me here because she was married to Albert Jackson Knight. Her name is listed on the family tree my Aunt put together as “Milliner Floreed (Reedy) Young”, born 1869 to Samuel Young and Mary Frances Gray. Any information you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Sherry Lynn Huffman McAlister

    • Thanks for your query, Sherry. Are you sure that your Albert Jackson Knight belongs to the John “Jacky” Knight line? I have perused a few of the Jacky Knight family genealogies and don’t find any Alberts with the middle name “Jackson,” nor do I find any who married a woman who fits the description of your GG Aunt.


  46. Vikki, What can you tell me about Daniel Champion Knight, son of John “Jackie” Knight and Kiziah Davis Knight. From what I have found, he had a daughter Almedia who married Samuel Gibson Owens. They had a daughter named Janie Estella (there are various spellings of her name) who had a son named Luther Eugene “Ed” Garner. I was adopted and met my biological father who is “Ed” Garner’s grandson. Any information you could give me about any of them, their ethnicities, etc., would be appreciated more than you know. My father passed away a couple of years ago and we were extremely close for the 6 years I had him, so I would like to find out whatever I can about my heritage. Thank you.

  47. Anyone familiar with Knightens? Same family? Sometimes names are changed. My KNIGHTEN family is from Louisiana as far back as I know. Thank you

  48. I thought what the story part about him killing his brother was actually a BROTHER IN LAW OF 1ST WIFE….So I can see that being said pretty good reason to leave and head home to protect his children.. Supposedly the brother was mistreating the children by first wife…

    Also did the knights at that time just go ahead and start passing for whites since it would be easy to get education and much further.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kimberly. The murder you are referring to is likely that of William “Bill” Morgan, who is said to have been married to Newt’s sister, Martha (who later married Dick Yawn). I’ve yet to find legal records that verify for certain that Newt Knight killed Bill Morgan, or that Bill Morgan was married to Martha Knight. However, there are multiple stories from the past that make this claim, and at least one contemporary account of its aftermath provided by B. D. Graves in 1926, so I tend to believe the story is true. The rumor that Newt killed his brother William, however, has no evidence to back it whatsoever.

      In regard to many Knights “passing” for white, please read my discussion of the “one drop rule,” which I linked at the end of the above article. I do not use or accept the term “passing” because it is based on the premise that if a person has any degree of African heritage, they are black, regardless of how white they are. This is a patently absurd, and reaches back to the era of slavery and segregation, when white supremacists did everything possible to deny people of color basic rights of citizenship. Of course, many Knights identified as white after slavery ended in order to escape the laws of segregation and the violence commonly directed toward persons suspected of having any degree of African ancestry. But Knights also identified as white because they were light-skinned, had many more white ancestors than black ones, and had been raised as white—i.e., they were white people who had some African ancestry. A good number identified themselves as neither white nor black, but rather as part of a third racial category.

      It’s well to remember that there is no biological reality to the concept of “race,” and that we are all of the same race, regardless of our ethnic identity, or the politics and culture that surround it.


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