The Free State of Jones

Understanding the Civil War Era South from the Perspective of The Free State of Jones

Dr Priscilla Leder

On July 16, 2019, Dr. Priscilla Leder—my former colleague at Texas State University, and now the host of KZSM’s “Bookmarked” radio show—interviewed me and Dr. Rebecca Montgomery about the Civil War Era South, with a focus on my book, The Free State of Jones.

What a lively afternoon it was! Rebecca, Professor of History at Texas State University, had not only read and taught the Free State of Jones, but is the author of two works on Southern women and educational reform: The Politics of Education in the New South: Women and Reform in Georgia, 1890-1930, (2006), and Celeste Parrish and Educational Reform in the Progressive Era South (2019).

A freewheeling discussion of class, race and gender relations in the South followed Priscilla’s introductions. We began by discussing why I wrote The Free State of Jones, a few of the authors who previously wrote about it, and how I treated their works in my

Dr. Victoria Bynum

own version. From there, we discussed the historical thread that connects Jones County’s insurrection against the Confederacy with the South’s Revolutionary Era struggles over economic divisions, slavery, and religious doctrine. We agreed there is much to be learned about today’s world from the struggles that engulfed plain white and enslaved people during the Civil War.

And, of course, we discussed the 2016 movie version (STX Entertainment)—and how wonderful it was to witness the introduction of this true story into the realm of popular culture via guerrilla leader Newt Knight. But also how satisfying it would be to more fully tell the story of how women—free and enslaved, white, black, and mixed-race—not only directly participated in Jones County’s inner civil war, but in the creation of the mixed-race, biracial community that followed in the wake of the Civil War.

 

 

 

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