4 replies »

  1. Know your presentation will be well received! When yu have a spare moment would like to hear what reviews yu are getting regards the film Free State of Jones! Very little here in the Waco area so far!

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Dr. Bynum, I know there has been argument on both sides of whether Newt was a primitive Baptist or not. Regardless of what denomination he was or wasn’t, I have read that he never drank or cursed, but twice in the movie he cursed and there is the scene where he pulls out a bottle of whiskey and drinks some. What is your belief on these issues?


    • Hello James,

      Thanks for your questions. In regard to Newt Knight and whether or not he ever cursed or drank, it’s impossible to know from our distant vantage point. We do have, however, Newt’s own words in his 1921 interview with Meigs Frost that he forbade his men to drink liquor before the Knight Company raid on Paulding, Jasper County. For that reason alone, I found the movie’s portrayal of him offering his men whiskey as a reward a surprise and a disappointment.

      In regard to whether Newt was a Primitive Baptist, there is no documented evidence to my knowledge that he ever belonged to such a church, certainly not during the Civil War. His parents and grandparents belonged to the Leaf River Baptist Church (which was NOT of the Primitive variety), in which his father and grandfather were regularly cited for drinking too much (this may be where Newt gained his aversion to drunkenness).

      The only reference I’ve ever seen to Newt joining a Primitive Baptist church was Tom Knight’s statement that Newt joined the Zion Primitive Baptist Church before around 1889. There is no record of this church or Newt’s membership to my knowledge. It’s important to remember that Tom himself was estranged from his father because of the mixed-race community Newt founded and lived in. Tom also became a Primitive Baptist at some point. At the time that Tom wrote his biography of the Free State of Jones (1935), he was seeking to create a heroic image of his dad. He left out his father’s racial connections, and added the now-famous reference to his dad becoming a Primitive Baptist late in life. Was this true, or was it part of Tom’s effort to resuscitate his dad’s reputation among more conventional Southerners? Without hard evidence, we simply don’t know. A newspaper reported in 1883 that Newt had joined the Mormon Church.



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