The Free State of Jones

A great day at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Texas Center for Working Class Studies.

I recently returned from the Spring Creek Campus of Collin College in Plano, Texas, where I delivered the keynote address, “The Free State of Jones: Class, Kinship, and Revolt in Civil War Era Mississippi,” to the Fourth Annual Conference of the Texas Center for Working Class Studies.

What a great turnout, and what a great program!

The Center’s stated mission “to raise awareness about issues related to social class, work, and the working class and to provide opportunities for collaboration among faculty, students, and community members” was accomplished in this one-day conference that featured panels on working-class literature, theory, culture, labor unions, migration, and more. I was honored to participate in the conference, my hopes for a brighter future for working people buoyed by the enthusiasm and expertise of other participants.

Warren Jacob Collins

A personal highlight of the Conference occurred for me even before I delivered my address. Much to my surprise, I learned that Mr. J. Robert “Bob” Collins, Chairman of Collin College’s Board of Trustees, had requested a personal meeting with me—because it turns out that Mr. Collins is the great-grandson of one of my favorite subjects of research: Warren Jacob Collins of Hardin County, TX, the leader of the pro-Union Jayhawkers who hid out in the Big Thicket of East Texas during the Civil War!  (Warren, as many of you already know, was not only a guerrilla leader, but also the brother of Newt Knight’s famous first Sergeant, Jasper Collins).


My husband, Gregg, and I were delighted not only to meet Bob Collins, but also his wife, Claude Ann Collins, who is herself a descendant of the Sumralls,  a family that also has deep roots in The Free State of Jones. So, once again, I had the experience of discussing one of the South’s most important Civil War histories with descendants of its participants seated right before me in the audience. It just doesn’t get any better!

—Vikki Bynum


Gregg Andrews, Victoria Bynum, Claude Ann Collins, and J. Robert Collins



Victoria Bynum, Texas Center for Working Class Studies Conference, March 22, 2018. Photo by Rebecca Sharpless


My thanks to Professor Kyle Wilkison for inviting me, to Prof. Chad Pearson for the great introduction, and to Prof. Lisa Kirby, Director of the Center, for making it all happen.

To learn more about the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies, visit its blog Here.

To learn more about Collin College, click Here.

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