Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-24 14:57Z by Steven

Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

The New York Times
2016-06-23

A. O. Scott, Film Critic


Matthew McConaughey, left, and Jacob Lofland in “Free State of Jones.” Credit Murray Close/STX Entertainment

Free State of Jones” begins on the battlefield, with a flurry of the kind of immersive combat action that has long been a staple of American movies. The setting is familiar in other ways, too. As a line of Confederate troops marches across a field into Union rifle and artillery fire, a haze of myth starts to gather over the action, a mist of sentiment about the tragedy of the Civil War and the symmetrical valor of the soldiers on both sides of it. But this is a sly piece of misdirection: The rest of the movie will be devoted to blowing that fog away, using the tools of Hollywood spectacle to restore a measure of clarity to our understanding of the war and its aftermath.

Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”) with blunt authority and unusual respect for historical truth, “Free State of Jones” explores a neglected and fascinating chapter in American history. Mr. Ross consulted some of the leading experts in the era — including Eric Foner of Columbia University, whose “Reconstruction” is the definitive study, and Martha Hodes of New York University, author of a prizewinning study of interracial sexuality in the 19th-century South — and has done a good job of balancing the factual record with the demands of dramatic storytelling. The result is a riveting visual history lesson, whose occasional didacticism is integral to its power.

The hero of this tale is Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County, Miss., who led a guerrilla army of white deserters and escaped slaves against the Confederacy during the war. Afterward, he tried to hold this coalition together as a political force in the face of Ku Klux Klan terror. As played by Matthew McConaughey, Newton is an ordinary man radicalized by circumstances. His hollow cheeks and wild whiskers suggest a zealous temperament, but the kindness in his eyes conveys the decency and compassion that lie at the heart of his moral commitment…

…“Free State of Jones” is careful not to suggest that the conditions endured by disenfranchised white and enslaved black Mississippians were identical. The system may be rigged against both, but in different ways. Especially after the war, the alliance proves fragile, as white supremacy reasserts itself with renewed brutality. Its persistence is emphasized by a subplot that takes place 85 years after the war in a Mississippi courtroom, where Davis Knight (Brian Lee Franklin), a descendant of Newton’s, is on trial for breaking the state’s law against interracial marriage…

Read the entire review here.

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On The Free State Of Jones

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-20 22:47Z by Steven

On The Free State Of Jones

The Huffington Post
2016-06-20

Steven Hahn, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

Three quarters of a century ago, “Gone with the Wind,” a film that mythologized an Old South of wealthy planters and obedient slaves, premiered in Atlanta amidst great fanfare and public interest. This week, a very different sort of film about the South of the Civil War and Reconstruction era – “Free State of Jones” — will have its premiere, and as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the War and Reconstruction and struggle through our own time of social and racial divisiveness, the public would do very well to take the film’s measure.

That is because “Free State of Jones,” challenges our many misconceptions of the Civil War and Reconstruction and can promote a dialogue about what may have been possible more than a century ago – and what is very much possible in our own day. “Free State of Jones” is based on a true story of interracial resistance to the Confederacy in Civil War Mississippi. It is the story of how a white farmer from humble origins named Newton Knight came to see how the Confederacy favored the rich planters at the expense of men and women like himself and chose to organize a rebellion aimed at establishing a terrain of freedom, a “free state,” in the county of Jones

…But Newton Knight eventually went further still. The strongest resistance to the Confederacy came, not from poor white folk, but from those who were destined to be its main victims: the slaves. In Mississippi and elsewhere in the Confederate South, they took the opportunity of the War to flee their plantations and farms, head to Union lines, or form maroons in swamps and remote woodlands, denying slaveholders the labor and submission that had been expected. During his own battles with the Confederacy in rural Jones County, Knight forged alliances with African Americans, most specifically a slave named Rachel with whom he developed an intimate relationship and eventually raised a family…

Read the entire article here.

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Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery on 2016-06-19 23:41Z by Steven

Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

University of Pennsylvania Press
August 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
6 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4840-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-9306-7

Jennifer L. Palmer, Assistant Professor of History
University of Georgia

Following the stories of families who built their lives and fortunes across the Atlantic Ocean, Intimate Bonds explores how households anchored the French empire and shaped the meanings of race, slavery, and gender in the early modern period. As race-based slavery became entrenched in French laws, all household members in the French Atlantic world —regardless of their status, gender, or race—negotiated increasingly stratified legal understandings of race and gender.

Through her focus on household relationships, Jennifer L. Palmer reveals how intimacy not only led to the seemingly immutable hierarchies of the plantation system but also caused these hierarchies to collapse even before the age of Atlantic revolutions. Placing families at the center of the French Atlantic world, Palmer uses the concept of intimacy to illustrate how race, gender, and the law intersected to form a new worldview. Through analysis of personal, mercantile, and legal relationships, Intimate Bonds demonstrates that even in an era of intensifying racial stratification, slave owners and slaves, whites and people of color, men and women all adapted creatively to growing barriers, thus challenging the emerging paradigm of the nuclear family. This engagingly written history reveals that personal choices and family strategies shaped larger cultural and legal shifts in the meanings of race, slavery, family, patriarchy, and colonialism itself.

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Theatre Review: ‘An Octoroon’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-19 18:16Z by Steven

Theatre Review: ‘An Octoroon’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Maryland Theatre Guide
2016-06-05

Jennifer Minich

We need to talk about An Octoroon: a razor-sharp, thought-provoking, radical, comical blast from the past. Playwright and DC native (bonus points) Branden Jacobs-Jenkins returns to Woolly Mammoth for the DC premiere of An Octoroon, an adaption of the 1859 melodrama, The Octoroon, by Anglo-Irish playwright Dion Boucicault.

The Octoroon is set at Terrebonne, a Louisiana plantation on the brink of financial ruin. When the new owner, George Peyton (Jon Hudson Odom), takes ownership of Terrebonne, he falls in love with his uncle’s illegitimate, one-eighth black daughter, Zoe (Kathryn Tkel). When the flailing plantation goes up for auction, and Zoe along with it, violence and chaos ensue…

Read the entire review here.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-17 20:31Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

W. W. Norton & Company
2016-06-14
368 pages
6.1 × 9.3 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-23925-6

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

A prize-winning historian tells a new story of the black experience in America through the life of a mysterious entrepreneur.

A black child born in the twilight of slavery, William Henry Ellis inhabited a world of fraught, ambiguous racial categories on the anarchic border between the United States and Mexico. He adopted the name Guillermo Enrique Eliseo and passed as a Mexican: traveling as Hispanic in first-class train berths, staying in the finest hotels, and eating in leading restaurants. A shrewd businessman, he became fabulously wealthy and found himself involved in scandalous trials, unexpected disappearances, and diplomatic controversies. Constantly switching identities, Eliseo was a genius at identifying and exploiting the porousness of the color line and the border line.

Through Ellis’s picaresque biography, Karl Jacoby presents an intriguing narrative set in a secret and ever-changing world. The Strange Career of William Ellis reinterprets the borderlands, showing how U.S. and Mexican histories intertwined during Reconstruction, and he offers new insight into the arbitrary and evolving definitions of race in America.

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A Confederate Dissident, in a Film With Footnotes

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-17 19:01Z by Steven

A Confederate Dissident, in a Film With Footnotes

The New York Times
2016-06-15

Jennifer Schuessler

The forthcoming Matthew McConaughey drama “Free State of Jones” lays claim to being the first Hollywood film in decades to depict Reconstruction, the still controversial post-Civil War period that attempted to rebuild the South along racially egalitarian lines.

But the movie, written and directed by Gary Ross, might also lay claim to a more unusual title: the first Hollywood drama to come with footnotes.

The film recounts the true story of Newton Knight (Mr. McConaughey), a Confederate deserter who led a ragtag dissident army from the swamps of Jones County, Miss., and continued to fight for the rights of African-Americans after the Civil War ended…

…Where Mr. Ross has invented characters or episodes or made guesses about motivations, he explains why, pointing to justifications in the historical record. For example, the film depicts Knight’s decades-long relationship with Rachel (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw of “Belle”), a former slave who once belonged to his grandfather and with whom he had several children. The site shows an 1876 document in which Knight (who remained married to his white wife) deeded her 160 acres of land — an indication, Mr. Ross writes, that theirs was “a loving relationship that grew over time,” rather than manifesting a “Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings power dynamic.” Knight did not own slaves.

The extent of Knight’s collaborations across the color line has been a point of sometimes hot debate among scholars, including those on Mr. Ross’s team. In 2009, after Mr. Stauffer and Sally Jenkins published “The State of Jones,” a book inspired by Mr. Ross’s screenplay, Ms. Bynum posted a blistering three-part review on her blog, questioning what she called its “highly exaggerated claims” that Knight had fought for racial equality before and after the war…

…It remains to be seen how Mr. Ross’s film will land with audiences. Kellie Carter Jackson, an assistant professor of history at Hunter College and the author of the coming book “Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence,” said there was a need for a more accurate depiction of Reconstruction, but noted that Hollywood “has a hard time divesting white men from the center of the universe.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Conversations: Victoria Bynum

Posted in History, Interviews, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2016-06-17 14:58Z by Steven

Conversations: Victoria Bynum

Mississippi Public Broadcasting
Aired: 2016-06-16
Length: 00:26:46


Historian and author Victoria Bynum talks about her book, “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest War.” First published in 2003, the book tells the story of Jones County residents who opposed secession from the Union during the civil war. The true story is receiving a resurgence in interest now that it has been made into a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey.

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“White Enough to Pass”: Uncovering the story of John Wesley Gibson

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-15 14:15Z by Steven

“White Enough to Pass”: Uncovering the story of John Wesley Gibson

underbelly: From the Deepest Corners of the Maryland Historical Society Library
2016-01-21


Excerpt from William Still’s 1872 book, The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, & c., Narrating the Hardships Hair-breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author; Together with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders, and Most Liberal Aiders and Advisors, of the Road, E450 .S85, MdHS. (reference photo)

“John Wesley Gibson represented himself to be not only the slave, but also the son of William Y. Day, of Taylor’s Mount, Maryland…” This is the opening statement of a slave narrative that tells the story of a man who chose freedom in a place and time that allowed slavery — Maryland in the 1850s. The short narrative offers details of his appearance (looks like his father); job description (farm foreman); his age (28); how he escaped (passed as a white man) and how he detested bondage (severe restrictions). Little else is known of John Wesley Gibson other than one paragraph of information in a 780-page history of the Underground Railroad published in 1872. After Gibson escaped, where did he go? What was his life like at Taylor’s Mount? Is there a way to verify the information in the narrative? His mother Harriet and sister Frances were mentioned in the story. What happened to them? How do we find out more info? Or are they lost to history?…

Read the entire article here.

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The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life Including Previously Uncollected Letters

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-13 18:25Z by Steven

The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life Including Previously Uncollected Letters

Syracuse University Press
2016
360 pages
2 black-and-white illustrations, appendix, notes, index
7 x 10
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8156-3446-1
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8156-1068-7
ebook ISBN: 978-0-8156-5369-1

J. W. Loguen (1813-1872)

Edited and with a Critical Introduction by:

Jennifer A. Williamson, Director of Gender Mainstreaming and Women’s Empowerment
ACDI/VOCA

The Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen was a pioneering figure in early nineteenth-century abolitionism and African American literature. A highly respected leader in the AME Zion Church, Rev. Loguen was popularly known as the “Underground Railroad King” in Syracuse, where he helped over 1,500 fugitives escape from slavery. With a charismatic and often controversial style, Loguen lectured alongside Frederick Douglass and worked closely with well-known abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, William Wells Brown, and William Lloyd Garrison, among others.

Originally published in 1859, The Rev. J. W. Loguen chronicles the remarkable life of a tireless young man and a passionate activist. The narrative recounts Loguen’s early life in slavery, his escape to the North, and his successful career as a minister and abolitionist in New York and Canada. Given the text’s third-person narration and novelistic style, scholars have long debated its authorship. In this edition, Williamson uncovers new research to support Loguen as the author, providing essential biographical information and buttressing the significance of his life and writing. The Rev. J. W. Loguen represents a fascinating literary hybrid, an experiment in voice and style that enlarges our understanding of the slave narrative.

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Sexual Relations Between Elite White Women and Enslaved Men in the Antebellum South: A Socio-Historical Analysis

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-06-12 01:36Z by Steven

Sexual Relations Between Elite White Women and Enslaved Men in the Antebellum South: A Socio-Historical Analysis

Inquiries: Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities
2013, Volume 5, Number 8
pages 1-3

J. M. Allain

There is ample evidence of sexual relations, from rapes to what appear to be relatively symbiotic romantic partnerships, between white slave masters and black women in the Antebellum South. Much rarer were sexual relations between white women and black slave men, yet they too occurred. Using an intersectional socio-historical analysis, this paper explores the factors that contributed or may have contributed to the incidence of sexual encounters between elite white women and slave men, the power dynamics embedded in them, and their implications in terms of sexual consent. The paper demonstrates how upper-class white women who engaged in these relationships used sex as an instrument of power, simultaneously perpetuating both white supremacy and patriarchy.

Read the entire article here.

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