The Free State of Jones

The New Face of Rachel Knight?

Is this Rachel Knight?

Is this Rachel Knight?

At long last we return to the question of whether a photograph of Rachel Knight exists (See Rachel Knight: Does a photo of her exist?). Knight family historian Yvonne Bivins believes that the woman identified as Rachel on the cover of my book, The Free State of Jones, is probably Anna Knight, daughter of George Ann Knight and granddaughter of Rachel. Based on her grandfather’s description of Rachel, she believes the woman in the photo to the left is much more likely to be Rachel. Grandfather Warren Smith, she writes, “described Rachel as a ‘Guinea Negro,’ meaning she was racially mixed but did not look white nor was she light-skinned, but with “nice hair” not kinky and shoulder length.”

Yvonne makes another important point: “My grandfather,” she states, “said that Rachel’s children did not appear as white as most would believe. They had complexions that ranged from dark olive to light brown, most with coarse black hair with a few red-heads in the mixture. The infusion of fair-skin came from the Ainsworths and not the Knights.”

Update, 10/13/2014: When I visited this past spring with Dianne Walkup, another descendant of Newt and Rachel, she expressed her belief that the photo shown on the cover of Free State of Jones, is, after all the disagreement, a true photo of Rachel Knight:

Possibly Rachel Knight

Or, is this Rachel Knight?

Free State of Jones, by Victoria Bynum

And so, the controversy continues!

By Vikki Bynum


7 replies »

  1. Hi, I am a descendant of Newt Knight. Oddly, I just was given my baby book, and there were some old pics in it, and this was one of them. It is definitely Rachel. My mother says she was told that Rachel was mostly either Creek, or Choctaw Indian. There was definitely some mixing going on, before and after. I also have a great picture of Charlie Knight, my great grandfather. I can’t find the picture of Captain Newton Knight I used to have. Anyway, the pic above is definitely Rachel.


    • Lacy,

      Thank you so much for confirming that this is the photo your mother had in her possession, and who she identified as Rachel! I’d love to post a photo of Charlie Knight as well.

      Where does your mother fit into the Knight kinship line?

      Vikki Bynum


  2. I believe they are the very same person just a younger and older version. The eyes, nose lips and hairline and chin have not changed much over the years.

    The difference in skin tone mentioned by others in previous comments mention that Rachel suppose was darker. Photos don’t show true skin tones and the lightness and darkness depend on the light source used in the making of the photo.

    I can almost say with certainty that the other photo of the man and woman together is not the same woman as the woman shown in the two above.

    Negative overlays can show if the features line up. This is done all the time as a tool in forensic identification with age progression of individuals and in identifying skeletons.

    Just a little more thought to stir in the pot.

    B.W. Anderson


  3. Greetings! Thank you so much for researching and publishing this information. Please excused my ignorance, I’m new to your research and this blog. However, I’m fascinated with Rachel and would like to inquire into her early life. Is there any more information about her life in GA? What part? Why was she sold to the Knight family? Wikipedia states (I’m assuming incorrectly) that she was born in 1849 but aged to 16 yrs in 1856 when purchased by the Knights (did she take her children with her to MS?) If her parents were both slaves, where did she get her lighter skin? Clearly, she was courageous and forward thinking, is there any evidence of education or her ability to read? With much respect, K


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