See First Photos of Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-04-21 20:40Z by Steven

See First Photos of Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

Time
2015-04-21

Sarah Begley, Culture Reporter


Matthew McConaughey stars in The Free State of Jones (Murray Close)

He’s basically your Civil War boyfriend

For an actor, there’s no better awards bait than an appearance-transforming role in a biographical war movie. World, meet The Free State of Jones.

Matthew McConaughey will star in the action-drama as Newt Knight, a Mississippi farmer who led a southern rebellion against the Confederates during the Civil War. He and his followers “seceded” from the Confederacy, calling Jones County “The Free State of Jones.” After the war, he distinguished himself from fellow southerners once again by marrying a former slave named Rachel…

Read the entire article here.

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Kaleidoscope: Redrawing an American Family Tree

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Mississippi, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2015-03-13 19:37Z by Steven

Kaleidoscope: Redrawing an American Family Tree

University of Arkansas Press
2015-06-01
140 pages
10 images
6″ x 9″
Paper ISBN: 978-1-55728-815-8

Margaret Jones Bolsterli, Emeritus Professor
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

In 2005 Margaret Jones Bolsterli learned that her great-great-grandfather was a free mulatto named Jordan Chavis, who owned an antebellum plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The news was a shock; Bolsterli had heard about the plantation in family stories told during her Arkansas Delta childhood, but Chavis’s name and race had never been mentioned. With further exploration Bolsterli found that when Chavis’s children crossed the Mississippi River between 1859 and 1875 for exile in Arkansas, they passed into the white world, leaving the family’s racial history completely behind.

Kaleidoscope is the story of this discovery, and it is the story, too, of the rise and fall of the Chavis fortunes in Mississippi, from the family’s first appearance on a frontier farm in 1829 to ownership of over a thousand acres and the slaves to work them by 1860. Bolsterli learns that in the 1850s, when all free colored people were ordered to leave Mississippi or be enslaved, Jordan Chavis’s white neighbors successfully petitioned the legislature to allow him to remain, unmolested, even as three of his sons and a daughter moved to Arkansas and Illinois. She learns about the agility with which the old man balanced on a tightrope over chaos to survive the war and then take advantage of the opportunities of newly awarded citizenship during Reconstruction. The story ends with the family’s loss of everything in the 1870s, after one of the exiled sons returns to Mississippi to serve in the Reconstruction legislature and a grandson attempts unsuccessfully to retain possession of the land. In Kaleidoscope, long-silenced truths are revealed, inviting questions about how attitudes toward race might have been different in the family and in America if the truth about this situation and thousands of others like it could have been told before.

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First Look at Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-03-10 01:39Z by Steven

First Look at Matthew McConaughey in The Free State of Jones

ComingSoon.net
2015-03-09

Max Evry

Motion picture and television studio STX Entertainment has begun principal photography on the theatrical feature The Free State of Jones in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, it was announced by Adam Fogelson, Chairman of STX Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group.

The epic action-drama is written and directed by four-time Oscar nominee Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), and stars Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Dallas Buyers Club), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights), Keri Russell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, “House of Cards”)…

…Set during the Civil War, The Free State of Jones tells the story of defiant Southern farmer Newt Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers, and with the assistance of local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones.

His marriage to a former slave, Rachel, and his subsequent establishment of a mixed race community was unique in the post-war South. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, which distinguished him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.

Read the entire article here.

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The Life and Death of Davis Knight after State vs. Knight (1948)

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, United States on 2015-02-01 23:40Z by Steven

The Life and Death of Davis Knight after State vs. Knight (1948)

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2009-04-08

Victoria E. Bynum, Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

Davis Knight, the great-grandson of the infamous “Free State of Jones” guerrilla, Newt Knight, became the centerpiece of his own drama some 25 years after the death of his notorious ancestor. Although Davis was descended from Newt and his wife, Serena, both of whom were white, he was also the great-grandson of Rachel Knight, a former slave of Newt’s grandfather. And although Davis was white in appearance, because of his descent from Rachel, he was defined as black by his white neighbors. Some of those neighbors did not take kindly to Davis Knight’s marriage in 1946 to Junie Lee Spradley, a local white woman. In 1948, Davis ended up in court, accused of having married across the color line (a crime in several states until 1967). Despite a vigorous defense by Attorney Quitman Ross, a jury pronounced Davis guilty. Convicted of miscegenation, the Ellisville Court sentenced him to five years in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison.

Attorney Ross immediately appealed the decision on grounds the court had failed to prove that Davis had 1/8th or more African ancestry, and won his case. The Mississippi State Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision and remanded Davis’s case for retrial–a retrial that never took place. In legal terms, the High Court ruled in this important case, the “one drop rule” did not determine one’s racial identity, regardless of social custom. Davis Knight thus escaped going to prison and, for the rest of his life, lived as a white man…

Read the entire article here.

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Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-07 03:00Z by Steven

Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Deadline Hollywood
2014-11-05

Mike Fleming Jr., Film Editor

Anita Busch, Film Editor

EXCLUSIVE: Matthew McConaughey and writer-director Gary Ross are the catalysts for a project called Free State Of Jones, which is getting some serious attention from STX Entertainment, the new mini-studio founded by investors TPG Growth, Gigi Pritzker, Hony and Robert Simonds. We hear that company reps, financial partner IM Global (who is handling foreign), and the filmmakers are heading to AFM this afternoon to discuss pre-sales. This is one of many projects STX is considering pushing through as part of its first slate. They are looking to go before the cameras in the first quarter of 2015.

Free State Of Jones is based on the untold and extraordinary story of Newton Knight, the leader of one of the greatest rebellions in Civil War history, and we hear that STX may finance (up to $20M) for the $65M-budgeted story of one of the most controversial men from the that era. McConaughey is in talks to play the Mississippian, who defected from the Confederate Army, banded together with a group of like-minded soldiers, and set out to form their own State known as the Free State Of Jones.

Knight would later have a common-law marriage to a former slave, one of the first outwardly mixed racial unions in the South — unheard of at the time. The rebellious Knight actually fought against the Confederates from within the state and after the war freed children still enslaved after a daring raid…

Note from Steven F. Riley: For more about the Knight family, please read Victoria E. Bynum’s superb monograph, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War.

Read the entire article here.

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Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 18:18Z by Steven

Chronicling Mississippi’s ‘Church Mothers,’ and Getting to Know a Grandmother

The New York Times
2014-08-29

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Columbia University, New York

SUMNER, Miss. — Toward noon on a torrid Monday in the Mississippi Delta, Alysia Burton Steele drove down Highway 49, looking for the crossroads near the Old Antioch Baptist Church. There, at the corner of a road called Friendship, she turned into the African-American section of Sumner, a dwindling hamlet of about 300 that suffices as a county seat.

A photographer by training and a professor by title, Ms. Steele was headed for the homes of two older neighbors, Lela Bearden, 88, and Herma Mims Floyd. She was bringing the women legacies to inspect, legacies in the form of portraits and testimonies she had taken of them over the last few years.

Ms. Bearden and Ms. Floyd were part of a larger assemblage of 50 African-American women whom Ms. Steele had chosen to chronicle in text and image for a book-in-progress she has titled “Jewels in the Delta.”

Whether by formal investiture or informal acclamation, nearly all the women in the book held the title of “church mother,” a term of respect and homage in black Christianity. As lifelong residents of the Delta — the landscape of the blues bards Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and the terrain of the civil rights crusaders Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer — the women had lived through segregation and struggle and liberation.

“I knew there were hard times,” said Ms. Steele, 44. “But I did not understand it. Just to hear the things they went through. That blacks couldn’t try on shoes in stores. That you couldn’t go to school if there was cotton to pick. The stories made me cry. They put a face on history for me. I felt like I got my private history lesson.”

In her work, Ms. Steele has attested to the worth of lives that Jim Crow meant to render worthless. At times, she has had to convince the church mothers themselves that their stories were significant enough to be part of a book…

…For Ms. Steele, such biography served a covertly personal purpose. The past for which she was searching in the Delta was that of her own grandmother, Althenia Burton.

As the daughter of a black father and white mother, who divorced when she was 3, Ms. Steele was raised by her paternal grandparents. While young Alysia cherished her grandmother, her Gram, she also bitterly resisted her. When her grandmother insisted on bringing Alysia to church, the girl poked holes in her tights in the futile attempt at an excuse to miss it. Even as Ms. Burton cultivated her granddaughter’s ambition for college, she dismissed her passion for photography with the pronouncement “Pick a real major.”…

Read the entire article here.

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A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, Religion, United States, Women on 2014-08-31 17:55Z by Steven

A Mother’s Love: Stories of Struggle, Sacrifice, Love and Wisdom

The Root
2014-05-11

Breanna Edwards

Journalist Alysia Steele’s explores the “jewels in the Mississippi Delta” who held it down for their families through decades of strife and racial struggle.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and many of us may feel the keen absence of the women who meant the most to us.

How many times have you wished you could turn back the hands of time and have one more conversation with one of the most influential women of your life? Maybe have notes of memorable anecdotes they shared?

This was one of Alysia Steele’s biggest regrets concerning her paternal grandmother, Althenia A. Burton, who died 20 years ago. Since then, the memory of her grandmother has stayed with Steele, never fading, and ultimately culminating in the conception of her current project, a book proposal, “Jewels in the Delta,” that has gained interest from publishers.

“I have a huge sense of regret that as a trained journalist I never had the foresight to get her story and I’ll never hear her voice again, and I can’t even tell you how much that hurts me,” Steele tells The Root.

Steele has interviewed about 47 women and is conducting the last of what will be a total of 50 interviews in the coming days. The project has taken her approximately 11 months to complete and countless hours of recording, transcribing, coaxing and traveling. It’s been hard work, to be sure, but to Steele the end goal has been more than worth it.

“How many of us stop and talk to our grandparents to get to their stories? To really ask them the questions that are hard?” she adds…

…In an excerpt from Steele’s book proposal, Virginia Hower, 93, shared how she “felt dirty” because of her ability to pass for white in a segregated society.

It was horror. You felt bad because you couldn’t be with your grandmother or your grandfather. You just accepted it. I couldn’t be with them because they were darker. Sometimes you felt bad because you could ride in a clean coach and just to think that your grandmother couldn’t kiss you as you stepped off the train. But they accepted it, so why not enjoy the clean train? And then when I got down on the streets, we all kiss and carry on. Those was happy moments. And then you got to thinkin’ how foolish this life is, how foolish. Then you got to thinkin’ about it and say take advantage of it and a lot of people down here in Clarksdale, they went to Chicago in ’41 and never revealed they were colored.

So many fascinating stories from unassuming women who had nothing but love for their respective husbands and children and who never really spoke about the troubles and trials they had endured…

Read the entire article here.

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Breath of Freedom

Posted in Europe, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States, Videos on 2014-02-15 21:24Z by Steven

Breath of Freedom

The Smithsonian Channel
Premieres Monday, 2014-02-17 20:00 EST

Narrated by Cuba Gooding Jr.

They fought to liberate Germany from Nazi rule, as racism reached unfathomable levels. Their fight would continue back home on American soil. This is the story of the one-million-plus African Americans who fought in World War II. Discover their encounters with hatred, from the enemy and from within their own ranks. Explore this paradoxical chapter in American history through interviews with war heroes, including Colin Powell, Tuskegee ace pilot Roscoe Brown, and Charles Evers, brother of Civil Rights activist and WWII veteran Medgar Evers. [The documentary also features Theodor Michael, author of Deutsch sein und schwarz dazu: Erinnerungen eines Afro-Deutschen [Being German and also Being Black: Memoirs of an Afro-German].]

Watch the exclusive premiere here.

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Veteran Served as a White, Convicted of Miscegenation

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Mississippi, Passing, United States on 2014-01-03 22:09Z by Steven

Veteran Served as a White, Convicted of Miscegenation

The Milwaukee Journal
Monday, 1948-12-20
page 20, columns 2 & 3


Davis Knight —AP Wirephoto

Ellisville, Miss.—(AP)—A young veteran who served in the navy as a white man and later married a white woman has been convicted of miscegenation and sentenced to five years in prison.

Dist. Atty Paul Swartzfager said the conviction Saturday of 23 year old Davis Knight was believed to be the first under the state’s miscegenation law, in force since reconstruction days. The law forbids marriage or cohabitation between white persons and those with at least one-eighth Negro or Mongolian blood. Conviction automatically cancels the marriage.

Knight whose marriage was performed in April, 1946, by the mayor of this south Mississippi town of 3,000, filed notice of appeal. Knight was arrested when “people started talking” and told his employer in Laurel that he was a Negro. Quitman Ross, his attorney, explained.

The main issue in the trial was the ancestry of Knight’s great-grand-mother, who was known as Rachel and who lived on the plantation of Capt. Newt Knight a picturesque character in Mississippi history. Rachel the state contended, was a Negro, and witnesses were introduced who testified that she and her children were known as Negroes. Among these witnesses was Tom Knight, 89 year old son of Capt. Knight who said that the young navy veteran’s grandfather was a son of Rachel.

Defense witnesses testified that they believed Rachel was a Cherokee Indian.

Swartzfager said no charges were planned against the white woman who married Knight under the impression that he was of all white blood.

Knight was drafted as a white, man at Camp Shelby in 1943 and his discharge papers. Swartzfager said, listed him as white.

Note from Steven F. Riley: For more about the Knight family, please read Victoria E. Bynum’s superb monograph, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War.

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Letter to Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. and Lieutenant Governor Carroll Gartin

Posted in Law, Letters, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2013-07-07 19:42Z by Steven

Letter to Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. and Lieutenant Governor Carroll Gartin

University of Southern Mississippi Libraries
Special Collections: Exhibits and Events
1964-02-14

  

Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission
New Capitol Building
Jackson, Mississippi

Erle Johnston, Jr., Director
Governor Ross R. Barnett, Chairman

Phones: FL 4-3218; FL 2-1022

MEMORANDUM

TO: Honorable Paul B. Johnson, Governor; Honorable Carroll Gartin, Lieutenant Governor

FROM: Director, Sovereignty Commission

SUBJECT: Louvenia Knight (Williamson) and her two sons, Edgar Williamson, born May 1, 1954, and Randy Williamson, born October 10, 1955

  1. This a condensation of a very voluminous file in the Sovereignty Commission on the two Williamson boys, shown on their birth certificates to be white males, sons of white parents, but possessing an amount of Negro blood believed to be between 1/16 and 1/32.
  2. This family lives in the Stringer community of Jasper County. A school bus from Stringer white attendance center passes in front of their home and also a school bus from the white attendance center at Soso in Jones County. The School Board in Jasper County will not permit them to go to the white school and the School Board in Jones County will not take them on transfer. They cannot and will not attend the Negro schools because they are white and because this would be violating Mississippi law. They are now eight and nine years old respectively and have never attended school one day.
  3. The State Department of Education asked the Sovereignty Commission to investigate and try to work out a solution to this problem. The Sovereignty Commission has made every attempt, through investigation and meeting with the school board personnel, to get these boys into a white school. We have even advised the officials involved that we can expect a lot of bad publicity on Mississippi if the boys are not admitted to a school. As of now, the newspapers, who know about the case, are withholding publication at the request of the Sovereignty Commission Director. We cannot maintain this black-out indefinitely.
  4. Unless the influence of the Governor’s office and/or the Lieutenant Governor’s office can be of some assistance in solving this problem, the Sovereignty Commission must close its files with the situation remaining status quo. When we close our files without progress we are afraid the news media will begin to publicize this case as two white boys who cannot go to school in Mississippi. As a newspaper man myself, I realize this story would make national headlines and we hare attempted to avoid it.
  5. The Sovereignty Commission Director will be happy to hear any recommendations from the Governor or Lieutenant Governor. The Commission file on this case is available if you wish to study it in detail.

Erle Johnston, Jr.
EJ/ea

View the letter here.

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