The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Mississippi, Monographs, United States on 2016-01-27 16:44Z by Steven

The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War

University of North Carolina Press
March 2016
352 pages
32 halftones, 10 maps, 4 tables
appends., notes, bibl., index
Paper ISBN 978-1-4696-2705-2

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

With a New Afterword by the Author

Between late 1863 and mid-1864, an armed band of Confederate deserters battled Confederate cavalry in the Piney Woods region of Jones County, Mississippi. Calling themselves the Knight Company after their captain, Newton Knight, they set up headquarters in the swamps of the Leaf River, where they declared their loyalty to the U.S. government.

The story of the Jones County rebellion is well known among Mississippians, and debate over whether the county actually seceded from the state during the war has smoldered for more than a century. Adding further controversy to the legend is the story of Newt Knight’s interracial romance with his wartime accomplice, Rachel, a slave. From their relationship there developed a mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended, and the ambiguous racial identity of their descendants confounded the rules of segregated Mississippi well into the twentieth century.

Victoria Bynum traces the origins and legacy of the Jones County uprising from the American Revolution to the modern civil rights movement. In bridging the gap between the legendary and the real Free State of Jones, she shows how the legend–what was told, what was embellished, and what was left out–reveals a great deal about the South’s transition from slavery to segregation; the racial, gender, and class politics of the period; and the contingent nature of history and memory.

In a new afterword, Bynum updates readers on recent scholarship, current issues of race and Southern heritage, and the coming movie that make this Civil War story essential reading.

The Free State of Jones film, starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Keri Russell, will be released in May 2016.

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The Free State of Jones Movie to be released May 13, 2016

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-01-10 01:12Z by Steven

The Free State of Jones Movie to be released May 13, 2016

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2016-01-05

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


The Free State of Jones Movie poster

Victoria E. Bynum is author of the book The Free State of Jones, Movie Edition: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War from which the move is based.

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

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-11-18 02:41Z by Steven

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

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2015-11-17

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

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-10-12 00:14Z by Steven

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

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2015-10-11

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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Race in the United States – Mississippi and Hawaii at Two Ends of the Spectrum

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Mississippi, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-08 20:51Z by Steven

Race in the United States – Mississippi and Hawaii at Two Ends of the Spectrum

UCR Today
University of California, Riverdale
2015-09-04

Mojgan Sherkat (mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – There’s a lot to learn about race in the United States through statistical figures alone, especially when comparisons are made between Hawaii and Mississippi, according to David Swanson, professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

“Hawaii and Mississippi stand out from each other and the U.S. as a whole in terms of health, education, and income,” said Swanson.

Swanson will release an essay on the topic on Zócalo Public Square on Sept. 16, 2015. The not-for-profit ideas exchange board will have a discussion on “What can Hawaii Teach America About Race?” It is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian and the Inouye Institute. The essay will be available on Zocalo‘s website.

Swanson used data from the U.S. Census Bureau (except life expectancy data, which comes from Wikipedia) to demonstrate race in America…

Read the entire article here.

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Chosen by Mississippi Democrats, Shy Trucker Is at a Crossroad

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Mississippi, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-09-08 01:41Z by Steven

Chosen by Mississippi Democrats, Shy Trucker Is at a Crossroad

The New York Times
2015-09-07

Campbell Robertson, Southern Correspondent


Robert Gray (Photo source: WLBT-TV)

JACKSON, Miss. — Only three people who had ever met this man, Robert Gray, knew that he was running in the primary for governor of Mississippi.

There were the two volunteers who took his $300 filing fee and qualifying papers several months ago at the state Democratic Party office and the candidate for agriculture commissioner who happened to be in the headquarters at the same time.

Otherwise, no one — not even Mr. Gray’s mother, with whom he lives.

At least she voted for him when she saw his name on the Aug. 4 ballot. Mr. Gray, 46, a round-faced, soft-spoken long-haul truck driver who lives on a quiet country road south of Jackson, was too busy working on his rig to vote himself. He would, nonetheless, go on to win, taking 79 out of Mississippi’s 82 counties.

Mr. Gray beat two other candidates, who unlike him spent money and campaigned. Democratic Party officials were stunned. The news media was stunned. Mr. Gray, now Mississippi’s Democratic nominee for governor, gave some interviews and then set off with a truck full of sweet potatoes for a potato chip factory in Pennsylvania…

…No one there had met Mr. Gray, but Gary Downing, who was getting a little off the ears, offered a thought on the state of politics: “Can’t do no worse than what we’ve got.”

This may be the central plank of the Gray campaign, such as it is. His campaign staff for now consists mostly of his sister, Angela Gray, 45, who works in real estate in Georgia, and Dwight Utz, 57, an engineer who moved here three years ago from Idaho. Mr. Utz, who is white, sees the campaign as the stirrings of a new civil rights movement.

Mr. Gray does not talk much about race. He cites no specific issue that prompted him to run for governor. He emphasizes a more general conviction that the state has been foundering for too long and that it could be thriving if only the governor would expand Medicaid and spend more on infrastructure and education…

Read the entire article here.

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Victoria Bynum to speak on the “Free State of Jones” at the Lauren Rogers Museum

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-09-03 00:28Z by Steven

Victoria Bynum to speak on the “Free State of Jones” at the Lauren Rogers Museum

“Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection” (2015-09-06 through 2015-11-15)
Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
565 N. Fifth Avenue
Laurel, Mississippi 39440
2015-09-10, 17:30 CDT (Local Time)

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

I’m pleased to announce that on September 10, 2015, I’ll be speaking on The Free State of Jones at the Lauren Rogers Museum in Laurel, Mississippi. The talk begins at 5:30 p.m.; open to the public, admission is free. Donations are accepted.

My talk is part of the museum’s exciting new exhibition, Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection (see description below), which will run from September 6 through November 15, 2015. Hope to see you there!…

For more information, click here.

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Writer Jesmyn Ward reflects on survival since Katrina

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States, Videos on 2015-08-27 00:43Z by Steven

Writer Jesmyn Ward reflects on survival since Katrina

PBS NewsHour
2015-08-24

Gwen Ifill, Co-Anchor & Managing Editor

Jesmyn Ward, Associate Professor of English
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

After writer and Tulane University professor Jesmyn Ward survived Hurricane Katrina while staying at her grandmother’s house, she wrote “Salvage the Bones,” an award-winning novel about a Mississippi family in the days leading up to the devastating storm. She joins Gwen Ifill to discuss how the storm affected the rural poor who could not escape, and now, who may not be able to return.

Read the transcript here.

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Newton Knight– abolitionist guerrilla leader in Mississippi

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2015-07-23 20:52Z by Steven

Newton Knight– abolitionist guerrilla leader in Mississippi

Workers World
2015-07-22

Paul Wilcox

A hidden history of the Civil War

Ever hear of the First Alabama Cavalry, or the name Newton Knight? Not likely. The capitalist media have always promoted stories of “former Confederate soldiers” who loyally served the Confederacy, loved Gen. Robert E. Lee, had no issue with slavery and so on. But there is another story, a hidden history, of poor white opposition to the Confederacy and to slavery…

…The Scouts had strong allies in the Black population, giving them food, ammunition, information and other supplies. There is no hard information about the composition of the guerilla army, except that “every day more blacks liberated from plantations came into the swamps to join the struggle.”

Many enslaved people risked life and limb to help, particularly Rachel, an enslaved person, who married Knight after the war. According to Jenkins and Stauffer, “They had an agreement, she would provide him with food and he would work to secure her freedom.” Knight was as good as his word. Eventually, he committed a “crime” in post-Reconstruction Mississippi by recognizing their own children and fighting for their right to attend school. Rachel and Newton were buried together outside a cemetery, because it was also “illegal” to have integrated cemeteries at the time…

Read the entire article here.

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Cracking The Code

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2015-06-01 20:12Z by Steven

Cracking The Code

The New Yorker
2015-05-14

Jesmyn Ward, Associate Professor of English
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana


Illustration by Rebekka Dunlap

I had always understood my ancestry to be a tangle of African slaves, free men of color, French and Spanish immigrants, British colonists, Native Americans—but in what proportion?

When my father moved to Oakland, California, after Hurricane Camille wrecked the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in 1969, strangers he encountered from El Salvador and Mexico and Puerto Rico would spit rapid-fire Spanish at him, expecting a reply in kind. “Are you Samoan?” a Samoan asked him once. But my father, with his black, silky hair that curled into Coke-bottle waves at the ends, skin the color of milky tea, and cheekbones like dorsal fins breaking the water of his face, was none of these things. He attended an all-black high school in Oakland; in his class pictures, his is one of the few light faces. His hair is parted in the middle and falls away in a blowsy Afro, coarsened to the right texture by multiple applications of relaxer.

My father was born in 1956 in Pass Christian, a small Mississippi town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, fifty miles from New Orleans. He grew up in a dilapidated single-story house: four rooms, with a kitchen tacked onto the back. It was built along the railroad tracks and shook when trains sped by; the wood of the sloped floor rotted at the corners. The house was nothing like the great columned mansions strung along the man-made beach just half a mile or so down the road, houses graced with front-facing balconies so that the wealthy white families who lived in them could gaze out at the flat pan of the water and the searing, pale sand, where mangrove trees had grown before they’d bulldozed the land.

Put simply, my father grew up as a black boy in a black family in the deep South, where being black, in the sixties, was complicated. The same was true in the eighties, when I was growing up in DeLisle, a town a few miles north of Pass Christian. Once, when I was a teen, we stood together in a drugstore checkout line behind an older, blondish white woman. My father, an inveterate joker, kept shoving me between my shoulder blades, trying to make me stumble into her. “Daddy, stop,” I mouthed, as I tried to avoid a collision. I was horrified: Daddy’s going to make me knock this white woman over. Then she turned around, and I realized that it was my grandaunt Eunice, my grandmother’s sister—that she was blood. “I thought you were white,” I said, and she and my father laughed.

Coastal Mississippi is a place where Eunice—a woman pale as milk, with blond hair and African heritage—is considered, and considers herself, black. The one-drop rule is real here. Eunice wasn’t allowed on the beaches of the Gulf Coast or Lake Pontchartrain until the early seventies. The state so fiercely neglected her education that her grandfather established a community school for black children. Once Eunice graduated, after the eighth grade, her schooling was done. She worked in her father’s fields, and then as a cleaning woman for the white families in their mansions on the coast. On the local TV station, she watched commentators discuss what it meant to be a proper Creole, women who were darker than her asserting that true Creoles have only Spanish and French ancestry. Theirs was part of an ongoing attempt to write anyone with African or Native American heritage out of the region’s history; to erase us from the story of the plantations, the swamps, the bayou; to deny that plaçage, those unofficial unions, during the time of anti-miscegenation laws, between European men and women of African heritage had ever taken place…

Read the entire article here.

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