Tap Roots (1948): A Review of the first “Free State of Jones” movie

Tap Roots (1948): A Review of the first “Free State of Jones” movie

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

Vikki Bynum, Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

As we await the release of The Free State of Jones, I thought it might be fun to visit an earlier movie similarly inspired by Newt Knight and the Knight band’s Civil War uprising. Tap Roots, adapted from James Street’s 1942 novel of the same name, was released by Universal International Pictures in August, 1948.

As I searched the internet, I quickly discovered that New York Times reviewer Tom Pryor had been anything but impressed by the movie. “Checking the accuracy of historical detail in Tap Roots, the romanticized Civil War drama,” he wrote, . . . “would serve no special purpose,” presumably because, he added, “clichés, oral and visual,” had produced a drama whose characters exhibited no “individuality or substance.”

Although I had read the novel Tap Roots many years ago, I had never seen the movie—until now. After viewing seven of the eight sections of Tap Roots on YouTube over the space of two days, I have to say, Pryor was correct. Moviegoers learned little to nothing about the important story of Southern Unionism in Jones County, Mississippi, from this production…

Read the entire review here.

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