By Vikki Bynum
From the cover of the Movie Edition of The Free State of Jones:
Between late 1863 and mid-1864, an armed band of Confederate deserters battled Confederate cavalry in the Piney Woods region of Jones County, Mississippi. Calling themselves the Knight Company after their captain, Newton Knight, they set up headquarters in the swamps of the Leaf River, where they declared their loyalty to the U.S. government, armed themselves, and battled against the Confederacy.
Adding further controversy to the story is Newt Knight’s interracial romance with his wartime accomplice, Rachel, a slave. From their relationship there developed a mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended, with branches eventually migrating far and wide. The ambiguous racial identity of the Knights confounded the rules of segregated Mississippi well into the twentieth century, culminating in 1948 with the miscegenation trial of great-grandson, Davis Knight.
Victoria Bynum traces the origins and legacy of the Jones County uprising from the American Revolution to the modern civil rights movement, tracing the overlapping rise of plantation slavery and industrial capitalism. Piercing through the myths that have shrouded the “Free State of Jones,” she uncovers the fascinating true history of a Mississippi Unionist stronghold, widely believed to have seceded from the Confederacy. Her exhaustive research and careful historical analysis of legends that have embellished and distorted “Mississippi’s longest civil war” reveals a great deal about the South’s transition from slavery to segregation, the racial, gender and class politics of the period, and the contingent nature of history and memory.
The Movie Edition, to which I’ve added a timeline and afterword, is available from Amazon books in Paperback, Kindle and Audible formats. For more information, or to purchase, click here.
To purchase from Barnes & Noble as either a Paperback or Nook Book, click here.
Introduction, “Kinship, Community, and Place in the Old and New South,” identifies the differences and similarities among three pro-Union revolts against the Confederacy, including the North Carolina Quaker Belt, the Free State of Jones, and the Big Thicket of East Texas.
Chapter one, “Guerrilla Wars: Plain Folk Resistance to the Confederacy,” compares and contrasts three guerrilla leaders from three different states: Newt Knight of Mississippi, Warren J. Collins of Texas, and Bill Owens of North Carolina
Chapter four, “Fighting a Losing Battle: Newt Knight vs. the U.S. Court of Claims, 1870-1900” traces Newt Knight’s thirty year effort to gain federal compensation for the Knight Company’s support for the Union during the Civil War.
Chapter five, “Civil War Unionists as New South Radicals,” traces the participation of the Unionist brothers, Warren J. Collins of Hardin County, Texas, and Jasper J. Collins of Jones County, Mississippi, in third party political movements of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Epilogue, “Fathers and Sons,” compares and contrasts the biographical accounts of Guerrilla leaders Newt Knight, Warren J. Collins, and Jasper J. Collins, written by their sons, Tom Knight, Vinson Collins, and Loren Collins.
Learn more about the upcoming movie Free State of Jones (release date: June 24, 2016) at the official STX website!
Categories: The Free State of Jones