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The Free States of Jones

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There is a non-fiction book made into a movie called The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War by Victoria E Bynum.


It documents the true story of how Captain Newt Knight and Jones County Mississippi broke away from the Confederacy during the Civil War.


Knight felt that it was a war that was fought on behalf of the Southern planter aristocracy(slaveholders) and disadvantaged many of the poorer soldiers who were actually on the battlefield fighting the war.


As a result of deserting the war, he was considered a fugitive hiding with runaway slaves.


The biography of Newt Knight has a very personal application to me.


I am not joking, jiving, or bullsh*tting by saying this, but Newt Knight was my great-great grandfather on my Dad's side.


Knight had many kids by both his legal white wife and by black mistress women.  

Among the mixed blood off-springs were Anna Knight and Augusta Ann Knight.  Anna Knight was a Seventh Day Adventist missionary who took up residency on Oakwood College now Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. Her sister Augusta Ann Knight Watts was my father's paternal grandmother.


Of course, Newt Knight is considered a traitor and turncoat; but, to family(or at least his black descendants) he is kind of considered to be somewhat of a folk hero for going against the Confederacy and making alliances with former slaves.


The film version of The Free State of Jones stars box office movie star Matthew McConaughey as Newt Knight. His white wife is played by  Keri Russel, formerly of teen drama Felicity.  Rachel Knight(one of Newt's concubines) is played by GuGu Mbatha-Raw.


It was released in 2016.


My Dad and I saw it the very first day it was released in the theaters.


The movie was not a hit  because of the medium and the time period it was released.

 If it had been released as a TV movie or miniseries on Lifetime, A&E, or The History Channel rather than a theatrical film, it would have been more successful. Many movie goers, especially young,  people are not interested in historical movies about controversial topics such as slavery and the Civil War. The movie came out around the late spring/early summer when many film-goers are interested in action pack releases.  Also, if The Free State of Jones had been made during an earlier period in Hollywood's history when people were more into epic movies, it would have stood a greater chance of success. Think of movies such as Birth of a Nation, Gone with The Wind, and  The Ten Commandments.  These movies lasted four  sometimes five hours with overtures at the beginnings and intermissions in the middle.  I'm not saying The Free State of Jones should have been that long but released  during a similar era.


Speaking of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this is not the first attempt to tell the story of the free state of Jones County Mississippi.  There was a movie made in 1948 called Tap Roots. It starred Van Heflin and Susan Hayward. The film was not directly about Newt Knight but you could tell by the storyline that it was very loosely inspired by his story.


I thought I would share a little of my family history behind that project.











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