From Legend to History to Film: “The Free State of Jones”

From Legend to History to Film: “The Free State of Jones”

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

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

The Free State of Jones, the movie

Between November 19–22, 2015, the Smithsonian Institute and National Endowment of the Humanities will host a history film forum at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. The forum will include a panel discussion of the forthcoming movie, The Free State of Jones.

According to Executive Director and forum curator Christopher Wilson, “by looking at several brand new films that illuminate the Secrets of American History, we will consider the issues that arise when true stories of the past become the subject of our on-screen entertainment.” To this end, on November 21, distinguished historians David Blight and Steven Hahn will join Gary Ross, the movie’s director and screenplay author, to discuss the challenges of bringing The Free State of Jones to the Big Screen.

The forum will also address the ways in which “films reflect the social, political, and cultural concerns of the times in which they were made,” which speaks to the question posed on Twitter by Kevin Levin of Civil War Memory: “What has changed in our Civil War memory to make room for just such a movie?”

Good question. Given that tales about the Free State of Jones have been around since before the Civil War ended, why wasn’t a movie about these plain white farmers of Civil War Mississippi who armed themselves and fought against the Confederacy made before now?…

Read the entire article here.

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