Long before Charlottesville, ‘great replacement theory’ found its champion in a racist senator

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2021-11-15 15:36Z by Steven

Long before Charlottesville, ‘great replacement theory’ found its champion in a racist senator

The Washington Post
2021-11-15

Martha Hamilton

A 1939 photo of Sen. Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi. (Harris & Ewing Collection/Library of Congress)

Four years ago, torch-bearing “Unite the Right” demonstrators, including Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis, marched into Charlottesville, shouting, “Jews will not replace us” and “White lives matter.” The next day, they clashed with counter-protesters, leaving one woman dead and a nation stunned.

Two-dozen participants in the rally are now on trial in a civil case, accused of conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence.

Some of the Charlottesville demonstrators were motivated by an ideology known as the “great replacement theory,” which warns that an increase in the non-White population fueled by immigration will destroy White and Western civilization.

That ideology has inspired a lot of recent violence, including the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, where the shooter warned of “White genocide” before pleading guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and engaging in a terrorist act.

But the great replacement theory isn’t new. More than 70 years ago, a U.S. senator published a book warning of the same destruction of White civilization. And as with the Charlottesville defendants, his incitements to racial violence that gave him a spotlight also got him into serious trouble.

Theodore G. Bilbo had twice been governor of Mississippi before he served in the U.S. Senate from 1935 to 1947, when “the growing intolerance among many whites toward public racism and anti-Semitism” led to his fall, according to an account in the Journal of Mississippi History

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The Confederate Flag Finally Falls in Mississippi

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Mississippi, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2020-07-05 19:40Z by Steven

The Confederate Flag Finally Falls in Mississippi

The New Yorker
2020-07-01

W. Ralph Eubanks, Visiting Scholar in Southern Studies
University of Mississippi


Even after the civil-rights movement changed Mississippi and America, the state held on to its flag, asserting that it had everything to do with heritage and nothing to do with hate.
Photograph by Dan Anderson / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Even after digging deep into my memory bank, I can’t remember the team that played at my first home football game, in 1974, when I was a student at the University of Mississippi. What reverberates from that day into my consciousness is both a sound and a vision: the abrupt thud of a bundle of flags, bearing the bright and unmistakable pattern of the Confederate stars and bars, landing at my feet. Acting on impulse, I pushed this unwanted object down a row in the stadium with my foot. Confederate flags always looked and felt like a threat, whether on the back of a pickup truck on a lonely country road or in the hands of angry white men and women on the sidelines of a civil-rights march. Given their abrupt arrival near my body, and years of conditioning as a black Mississippian, I could not resist the urge to shove them away as if they were an intruder or a bully.

Later that sunny fall afternoon, after a more amenable recipient got hold of the bundle of flags, they were passed down the row where my date and I were sitting. Both of us were dressed according to game-day tradition, me in a blazer and she in a dress and heels. When the flags reached us again, we leaned back, our hands gripping the wooden bleachers, to keep from touching what we viewed as objects of intimidation. We didn’t want to spread them. Soon, though, we were lost in a sea of the Confederate cantons that mirrored the image of the Mississippi state flag. In spite of how perfectly we conformed to the dress code, we felt as if we did not belong in the stadium. But we refused to leave—we wanted to prove that we had a right to be there…

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Historian Victoria Bynum on the inaccuracies of the New York Times 1619 Project

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, Religion, United States, Women on 2019-11-20 02:21Z by Steven

Historian Victoria Bynum on the inaccuracies of the New York Times 1619 Project

World Socialist Web Site
2019-10-30

Eric London


Victoria Bynum

An interview with the author of The Free State of Jones

Historian Victoria Bynum, author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (University of North Carolina Press, 2010), The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2001) and Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (University of North Carolina Press, 1992), spoke to the World Socialist Web Site’s Eric London on the historical falsifications involved in the New York Times’1619 Project.”

The 1619 Project, launched by the Times in August, presents American history in a purely racial lens and blames all “white people” for the enslavement of 4 million black people as chattel property.

Bynum is an expert on the attitude of Southern white yeomen farmers and impoverished people toward slavery. Her book The Free State of Jones studied efforts by anti-slavery and anti-confederate militia leader Newton Knight, who abandoned the Confederate army and led an armed insurrection against the Confederacy during the Civil War. It was adapted for the big screen in Gary Ross’s 2016 film Free State of Jones.

* * *

WSWS: Hello Victoria, it is a pleasure to speak to you. The New York Times writes that slavery is “America’s national sin,” implying that the whole of American society was responsible for the crime of slavery.

But [Abraham] Lincoln said in his second inaugural address in 1865 that the Civil War was being fought “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” What was the attitude of the subjects of your study toward slavery? Is it possible to separate those attitudes from the economic grievances that many white farmers and poor people harbored against the Confederate government of the slavocracy?

Victoria Bynum: Direct comments about the injustice of slavery are rare among plain Southern farmers who left few written records. Knowing this at the outset of my research, I was delighted to find clear and strong objections to slavery expressed by the Wesleyan Methodist families of Montgomery County, North Carolina, which I highlighted in my first book, Unruly Women. In 1852, members of the Lovejoy Methodist Church invited the Rev. Adam Crooks, a well-known abolitionist, to address their church…

WSWS: Do you see parallels between the New York Times’ references to genetics (the historic “DNA” of the United States) and the argument, advanced by the slavocracy, that “one drop” of black “blood” was enough to count a light-skinned person in the expanded the pool of slave labor. Can you expand on this?

VB: The frequent correlation of identity with ancestral DNA continues to mask the historical economic forces and shifting constructions of class, race and gender that have far more relevance to one’s identity than one’s DNA can ever reveal. Historically, race-based slavery required legal definitions of whiteness and blackness that upheld the fiction that British/US slavery was reserved for Africans for whom the institution “civilized.” From the earliest days of colonization, however, both forced and consensual sexual relations created slaveholding and non-slaveholding households that were neither “black” nor “white,” but rather were mixed-race. The frequent rape of enslaved women by slaveholders produced multitudes of such children, but so also were many mixed-race children born to whites and free blacks. Slave law dictated that the child of an enslaved woman was also a slave—and therefore “black”—regardless of who fathered the child. Conversely, deciding the race of children born to free women who crossed the color line was not so easy, and became even more difficult after slavery was abolished. In the segregated South, where one’s ability to work, live, love, travel and enjoy the full benefits of American citizenship depended on one’s perceived race, such questions might end up in court, as was the case in 1946 for Newt Knight’s mixed-race great-grandson, Davis Knight, after he married a white woman. While custom dictated that Davis Knight was “black” based on his great-grandmother Rachel’s mixed-race status, state laws required more precise evidence. Under Mississippi law, unless one was proved to have at least one-fourth African ancestry, one was legally—though not socially—white. On this basis, Davis Knight went free…

Read the entire interview here.

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Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2018-05-19 22:54Z by Steven

Jesmyn Ward: ‘Black girls are silenced, misunderstood and underestimated’

The Guardian
2018-05-11

Lisa Allardice, Editor
Guardian Review

Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’
Jesmyn Ward: ‘I fought from the very beginning.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, had a tough childhood in Mississippi, survived Hurricane Katrina, and became the first woman to win two US national book awards for fiction

If Jesmyn Ward’s fiction tends towards the epic, that is maybe because her life has been marked by monumental events. “I fought from the very beginning”, she says. Born prematurely at just 26 weeks, she was badly attacked by her father’s pit bull as a small child, her younger brother was killed at 19, and, along with several generations of her family, she sheltered from Hurricane Katrina in a truck. Yet today she is the first woman to win the US national book award for fiction twice, hailed by a leading reviewer as “one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country”. And on the morning we meet, it has just been announced that she has been shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction for her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward’s subject is what it means to be poor and black in America’s rural south, where “life is a hurricane”. Modern Mississippi, she says, “means addiction, ground-in generational poverty, living very closely with the legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow, of lynching and of intractable racism”. In her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds (2008), she felt she “protected” her characters from these brutal realities, because she knew and cared about them too much: “So I kept pulling my punches. And later I realised that was a mistake. Life doesn’t spare the kind of people who I write about, so I felt like it would be dishonest to spare my characters in that way.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Free State of Jones: A Roundtable

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2017-11-13 01:33Z by Steven

The Free State of Jones: A Roundtable

Civil War History
Volume 63, Number 4, December 2017
pages 400-420

Joseph Beilein (JB), Assistant Professor of History
Pennsylvania State University, Behrend

Margaret Storey (MS), Professor of History and Associate Dean
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

Andrew Slap (AS), Professor of History
East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tenneessee

Jarret Ruminski (JR), Freelance Writer, researcher, and Consultant
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ryan Keating (RK), Civil War History book review editor; Assistant Professor of History
California State University, San Bernardino

The summer of 2016 saw the release of the first large-budget Civil War film since 2012’s critically acclaimed Lincoln. The Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross and starring Matthew McConaughey, is not simply, however, another film about the Civil War. Based on historian Victoria Bynum’s acclaimed book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, this film marks an important shift in the popular depiction of America’s greatest conflict as it takes viewers inside the complex inner civil wars many Americans fought during this period. Long defined as a conflict pitting the north against the south, the realities of the Civil War were, as this film attempts to show, much more complex. Questions of loyalty and issues of patriotism have become an important part of the historiography of the Civil War era, illustrating the ways average men and women, North and South, struggled with the collision of national and local issues. Although the nuances of patriotism and loyalty have long driven the scholarly community, these issues have played a less important role in public, and especially Hollywood, portrayals of the war and the Reconstruction era. Certainly, past films have touched on the subject. Ride with the Devil, Pharaoh’s Army, and Cold Mountain, for example, all touch on patriotism and loyalty, as the main characters struggle with the consequences of the war on the home front. Based on a true story, Free State of Jones, is, however, the first to truly analyze this struggle through the lens of southern dissent. Following the experiences of Mississippian Newton Knight, a disillusioned southern soldier who returns home to lead a revolt against Confederate authorities in Mississippi, the film strikes at the heart of the complex nature of identity, patriotism, and loyalty during the Civil War and Reconstruction and gives viewers a rare glimpse into aspects of the war often overlooked by Hollywood film.

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Jesmyn Ward, Heir to Faulkner, Probes the Specter of Race In the South

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2017-09-05 00:05Z by Steven

Jesmyn Ward, Heir to Faulkner, Probes the Specter of Race In the South

TIME
2017-08-24

Sarah Begley, staff writer


Ward, who teaches creative writing at Tulane, set her new novel in a coastal Mississippi town Beowulf Sheehan

“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi” goes a line often attributed to William Faulkner. More than half a century later, Jesmyn Ward may be the newest bard of global wisdom.

The writer rocketed to literary fame in 2011 when she won the National Book Award for her second novel, Salvage the Bones, a lyrical Hurricane Katrina tale. As in her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds, the characters in Salvage live in the fictional Mississippi Gulf Coast hamlet of Bois Sauvage, which is based on Ward’s native DeLisle. Six years and two nonfiction books later, Ward has returned to fiction, and to Bois Sauvage, with Sing, Unburied, Sing, a mystical story about race, family and the long shadow of history.

Ward, 40, wrote her first two novels while moving around the country for writing programs and fellowships, but she has since returned home and started a family. Sing, Unburied, Sing is the first novel she’s written from there and the first she’s written as a mother. “The figurative language that I use is so informed by this place and by the things that I see and experience here,” she says, “that it helped me write Sing, because I’m able to observe and see these things and incorporate them into my writing.” Consider how nature relates to human behavior in this description of a grandfather on a difficult morning: “He matched the sky, which hung low, a silver colander full to leak.” Or when a mother watches her daughter cling to her son: “She sticks to him, sure as a burr: her arms and legs thorny and cleaving.”…

…Ward’s characters are informed of her own deep knowledge of a town like Bois Sauvage. For Sing, Ward asked herself what life would be like for a mixed-race boy like Jojo in contemporary Mississippi, a place where schools are still struggling with segregation and interracial dating has been a historic taboo. “I wanted to understand how he would navigate something of a coming of age in the modern South, where, yes, it is modern, but there are multiple waves of the past here,” she says…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing Strange

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, United States on 2016-11-04 15:44Z by Steven

Passing Strange

The Common
2016-11-04

W. Ralph Eubanks

All thinking Southerners, at some point, find their minds at war with their hearts, a battle that often ends with the heart claiming victory. It is this triumph of the heart that landed me, a black expatriate Mississippian, back in my home state again. Yet returning to Mississippi after nearly forty years, albeit temporarily, as a visiting professor, has left me torn somewhere between acceptance and separateness. In some ways, the longer I am in the South, the less I try to maintain my distance from the place.

One way my divide from the South has been bridged is in the way I speak when I am here. When I left Mississippi I scrubbed away any outward sign that would mark me as a native son, even succeeding at losing my accent as well as the elongated vowels of my youth. But these days a decided twang has begun to creep into my voice. And rather than correcting my linguistic lapses, I’m reclaiming this part of my Southern background.

But there is one thing I have had difficulty accepting: people thinking I am a white man…

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Free State of Jones Capsizes Lost Cause Myths

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-29 00:30Z by Steven

Free State of Jones Capsizes Lost Cause Myths

Process: A Blog For American History
2016-07-12

Matthew E. Stanley, Assistant Professor of History
Albany State University, Albany, Georgia

Reconstruction is perhaps the least understood period in American history, a distinction that has been both perpetuated by and reflected in popular culture since the late nineteenth century. Films in particular have gone from presenting the era through the Dunning lens of rank white supremacy (The Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, Tennessee Johnson) to skipping straight to white reunion (Abraham Lincoln, Ken Burns’s The Civil War) to addressing its social achievements and betrayals through either subtle foreshadowing (Lincoln, Glory) or highbrowed metaphor (The Hateful Eight). Director Gary Ross’s Free State of Jones, however, which depicts the origins and aftermath of Newton Knight’s bigender and biracial anti-Confederate insurgency in Jones County, Mississippi, might be the first to properly and historically situate Reconstruction in full relation to the war itself, serving as a vigorous repudiation of Lost Cause mythology.

Consulted by and employing source material from historians including Eric Foner, David Blight, and Victoria Bynum, Free State of Jones presents a wartime regional counternarrrative that becomes a postwar national standard narrative. In other words, the events depicted both are and are not historically representative. Led by farmer-turned-renegade Knight, ably portrayed by a suitably angular Matthew McConaughey, white members of the “Knight Company” are deserters and poor farmers who have rejected the Confederate “Twenty Negro Law” and regressive property confiscation; its black constituents are self-emancipated slaves and intrepid spies with even greater interest in overthrowing the callous Southern plantocracy. Through a series of competently shot skirmishes and ambushes, this militant underclass slowly drives Confederate forces from a large swath of southeast Mississippi. Persecuted by the Confederacy and ignored by the Union, Knight’s militia declares a “Free State of Jones” committed to principles of social and economic egalitarianism. His white wife and child having absconded, Knight falls for a mixed race slave, Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and together they create a biracial community that still exists…

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The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 02:03Z by Steven

The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

The Labor And Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)
2016-07-12

Mark Lause, Professor of History
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

I can feel a certain sympathy for people who get hoodwinked into fighting for a Lost Cause that could never be worthy of the blood and treasure spent on its behalf. After all, as a child of the Cold War, my own closest brush with toting a gun to war came during Vietnam. In that conflict, the government, both political parties, the military, the media, the universities, the corporations, and the entire power structure insisted that the triumph of a Vietnamese effort to control of their own country would start toppling dominoes that would end in Anytown, U.S.A. By the end, most Americans actually doubted this. In hindsight, there’s no real issue as to whether the power structure of the people were correct, though some feel obligated to pretend otherwise.

Responses to the Free State of Jones by Gary Ross, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mahershala Ali demonstrate that such denials of experience can last a long time. The movie offers a fictionalized version of the revolt of poor Southerners against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Newton Knight worked on medical duties at the front until his disgust with the war inspired his desertion and return home. “Captain” Knight held that title for his role as the leader of guerilla forces that successfully made parts of southern Mississippi a no-go zone for Confederate tax gatherers and conscript officers. It is based on Victoria E. Bynum’s superb historical account The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), and aims to be much more truthful than Hollywood’s first attempt at the subject in 1948, Tap Roots.

Free State of Jones directly confronts the issues of class and race that Tap Roots downplayed or avoided. This fact, in part, explains the mixed reviews.

A movie is not a documentary, of course. The page dedicated to Free State of Jones at “History vs. Hollywood” provides a useful corrective, and I would urge everybody who liked the movie to read Bynum’s book…

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Crucifying the White Savior (Film)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-19 19:44Z by Steven

Crucifying the White Savior (Film)

Shadow and Act
2016-06-29

Andre Seewood

We no longer have to forgive them, for they know exactly what they are doing.

The new film by Gary Ross, “The Free State of Jones” is uncontestably a White savior film. Laid bare, “The Free State of Jones” is a simplistically constructed tale of a Confederate army deserter who eventually lives in a polygamous relationship with a Black former slave named Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with whom he has a mixed race child and his White wife and their White child. The film’s story is a heroification of the 1862 true story of Newton Knight a real Confederate deserter from Jones County, Mississippi, who ironically didn’t actually “save” anyone, but instead merely prolonged the inevitable suffering of those Blacks and his mixed race progeny who were trapped within the White supremacist power structure of the United States of America.

The film builds its White savior character not in the broad conflicts between Confederate and Union soldiers, Free Black men and the KKK, but in small scenes of selfless heroism and demonstrative yet intimate “White-man- taking-charge- and-directing- the-actions- of-others” scenes that accumulate over the course of the two-and- a-half- hour film until there is no doubt about who is saving whom in a battle and who desperately needed to be protected from whom in a White supremacist society. Yet “The Free State of Jones” is an oddly racially segregated film that separates its Black token characters from its White fully developed characters, even as they fight (presumably) together to protect their illegal territory. There are certain battle and robbery scenes where no Black token is shown and others where Black tokens fight next to each other but are segregated from their fellow White fighters, revealing that Knight’s Free State was conditional at best. Moreover, the film never manages to convince the skeptical spectator that Knight’s higher ideals of freedom, autonomy, and “Every man is a man” equality were not simply rooted in his adulterous lust for a Black woman’s body.

However, if we take off the metaphorical rose colored glasses that director Gary Ross has placed in front of the camera, it is not too difficult to see that Newton Knight was merely a Confederate deserter who wanted to have his cake and eat it too- a Black mistress and a White wife – and through the benefit of his White privilege, he was allowed to do so with peculiar impunity until the end of his days…

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