The Free State of Jones

Ingrid Leverett responds to Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer’s book, State of Jones.

 I received the following email message on Sunday from Ingrid Leverett, the daughter of historian Rudy Leverett, author of The Legend of the Free State of Jones (University of Mississippi Press, 1984). Rudy’s book demolished once and for all the myth that Jones County seceded from the Confederacy. While he and I differed in our opinion of whether or not Newt Knight was an outlaw or a Unionist, we engaged in a mutually-respectful dialogue in which we shared materials and ideas.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

Dr. Bynum,

Thank you very much for your defense of serious and careful scholarship in connection with the history of Jones County, Mississippi.  As a daughter of Rudy Leverett, I was dismayed to read of the distorted and ahistorical treatment of the subject by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer and of the publicity their work seems to be receiving.  My father would have endorsed your superb rebuttal of their unsubstantiated claims for Newt Knight which, as you explained, make for colorful drama but poor history.  Indeed, the purpose of my father’s book, Legend of the Free State of Jones — ten years or more in the researching and writing — was precisely to lay to rest, once and for all, perpetuation of the myths about Jones County and Newt Knight advanced by Jenkins and Stauffer.
Best regards,
Ingrid Leverett

2 replies »

  1. Ingrid, what I find reprehensible about the STATE OF JONES is that the authors subtitled it “The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy,” when what they argue in the book is NOT a story of secession-within-secession, but that of an insurrection against the Confederacy. If they don’t know the difference they certainly should, especially given their claims of having written a scholarly book.

    They have since tried to paper over their marketing effort to have it both ways–that is, suggest to readers that Jones County seceded even though no evidence supports their subtitle–by arguing that Jones County EFFECTIVELY seceded from the Confederacy simply by fighting against it. Well, they can’t have it both ways. Not only is there no evidence for the old secession myth, but as the authors well know, both Newt Knight and Jasper Collins denied during their lifetimes that any such act ever took place.

    I do hope that the University of Mississippi Press brings your father’s book back into print.



  2. I agree with your comments, Vikki. The subtitle of the book revives the bogeymen that motivated my father to become a scholar and historian in the first place: superstition, rumor, myth, half-truth, wishful thinking and sensationalism. I simply do not understand how the subtitle was permitted to go into print.

    I, too, hope we can get Dad’s book re-published by University Press of Mississippi. I know that house would be his first choice.



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