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Now a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, and Keri Russell In theaters June 24, 2016Actor Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) performs the gripping tale of an armed band of Confederate deserters and slaves living in a mixed-race community who rose up against the Confederate Cavalry in 1863 to form their own republic,Now a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, and Keri Russell In theaters June 24, 2016Actor Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) performs the gripping tale of an armed band of Confederate deserters and slaves living in a mixed-race community who rose up against the Confederate Cavalry in 1863 to form their own republic, free of slavery, in what is now the state of Mississippi. The community they formed - and the ambiguous racial identity of their descendants - confounded the rules of the segregated South well into the 20th century.In bridging the gap between the legendary and the real Free State of Jones, author Victoria Bynum unwraps the legend - what was told, what was embellished, and what was left out....

Title : the free state of jones mississippi s longest civil war
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ISBN : 30090006
Format Type : Audible Audio
Number of Pages : 180 Pages
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the free state of jones mississippi s longest civil war Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-02-03 15:07

    ”It was easy to see why the legend had endured. Its characters were larger than life: men bound to one another by kinship, economic status, and membership in a paramilitary band armed against the Confederacy; women equally bound by kinship and unfettered by the chains of ladylike behavior; and even some slaves, although Piney Woods, Mississippi was not a major slaveholding region. Towering above all other characters in popular memory were ‘Captain’ Newt Knight, the grandson of a slaveholder, and Rachel Knight, the slave of Newt’s grandfather. Their relationship added the specter of interracial intimacy to the story.”Newton KnightThere is a misconception regarding the County of Jones in Mississippi. Some think this county seceded from the Confederacy, but the real truth is they never left the Union. They remained loyal to their federal government, and some men even left to join the Union army, but a group of men, some deserters from the Confederate Army and some slaves, banded together to form a resistance to what they considered to be an invading force. Rachel was a slave, a pretty woman with light skin. Her descendents tried to convince people that she was of Spanish heritage as a way to excuse her dark eyes, dark hair, and tinted complexion. It is all rubbish, of course, just people putting their racism on display when what they should be is feeling proud that, despite her circumstances, she became a woman to be reckoned with. Ethel Knight wrote a damning biography of Newt but maybe unintentionally revealed the more interesting part of the story. ”Ethel not only restored Rachel’s historical role, but she also unveiled a powerful, larger-than-life woman who had endured slavery, sexual exploitation, the Civil War Reconstruction, and Mississippi’s mounting campaign for white supremacy and racial segregation. Most strikingly, Rachel seemed to have had as much impact on the world around her as it had on her.”Rachel KnightRachel had three children before the Civil War; all the children were obviously from white fathers. As a slave, she didn’t have much choice who bent her over a table and flung her skirt up. The raping of female slaves was an epidemic in the South. ”Between 1890-1920 white Southern literature---especially newspapers---commonly portrayed interracial sexual relations as the product of sex-crazed black ‘fiends’ ravishing innocent, virginal blondes, rather than as the product of white men raping black women or of blacks and whites participating in consensual sexual relations.”The interesting thing is, when these wealthy planters impregnated their slaves, they were condemning their own offspring to slavery. In their minds, they were helping to create more workers for their plantations. There is a disconnect in this reasoning that has me thinking that sex with their slaves, basically having a harem at their disposal, was more important to them than any thoughts of their own blood being condemned to a life in chains. I’m sure Hollywood, in the new movie starring Matthew Mcconaughey, will make it a love story between Newt and Rachel. The author Victoria E. Bynum doesn’t necessary disabuse that notion, but I couldn’t help thinking, was this love or was Rachel just being practical? White men found her attractive. Maybe she was with the alpha dog to keep from having to fend off the attentions of the other men. She had children with Newt, but what makes me feel a bit unsettled about buying the love story is that he also rumored to have had children with her daughter. What the heck was going on out there in the deep Mississippi woods? To further complicate the picture, he remained married to his wife Serena for the rest of his life. Men joined Newt out of fear for their lives. They didn’t want to die on a battlefield, fighting Yankees for rich planters. It wasn’t exactly safe being with Newt’s band; many were caught and hung or shot. They were also suffering economic hardship from being away from their homes to go to war. When the Confederacy passed the Twenty Negro Law which allowed any Southerner with twenty or more slaves to leave the war to go home to help with harvest, it became clear to many men that the Confederate Government was only worried about the very richest of the rich. Does the man with twenty slaves really need to go home? It seems to me that this small demographic had plenty of help to bring in the harvest. It was the man with no slaves, with a wife and a passel load of children, who needed to go home to help. Of course, the bulk of the soldiers were poor men with either a small acreage or were sharecroppers without land. If you let those guys go home, there would be no army. I know many thought they were going to war to defend their “raights,” but in reality they were fighting to defend a system in which they had no skin in the game. 12.2% of the population of Jones County were slaves. This was the lowest percentage of any county in Mississippi. These were not men who aspired to be slave owners. Bynum traces back the history of these men as their ancestors came from Georgia and South Carolina to Mississippi to live simple lives and avoid the corruption of ”over civilisation.”There was always something a little different about Jones County. Victoria E. Bynum is descended from one of the men who joined Newt Knight in his armed resistance to the Confederacy. I’ve done some research on my own family, and one of the things that happens is that as you collect the data and begin to put together a picture of who your ancestors are, you start to change how you think about yourself. Discovering your roots is important, but there is always the risk that you will discover that you are descended from scalawags or unscrupulous men or a murderer. To me that just adds spice to the stew that is a family tree. Bynum confessed that, once she finished this book, she was going to miss living every day with these people who were so unique, so brave, and who resisted when many more should have. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  • Perry
    2019-01-25 13:56

    Significant, Obscure in Civil War History [full disclosure: main character, Newt Knight, is my first cousin, 4 times removed]short ad for movie released today 6/24from Smithsonian mag: Matthew McConaughey thought the Free State of Jones script was the most exciting Civil War story he had ever read, and knew immediately that he wanted to play Newt Knight. In Knight’s defiance of both the Confederate Army and the deepest taboos of Southern culture McConaughey sees an uncompromising and deeply moral leader. He was “a man who lived by the Bible and the barrel of a shotgun,” McConaughey says in an email. “If someone—no matter what their color—was being mistreated or being used, if a poor person was being used by someone to get rich, that was a simple wrong that needed to be righted in Newt’s eyes....He did so deliberately, and to the hell with the consequences.” McConaughey sums him up as a “shining light through the middle of this country’s bloodiest fight. I really kind of marveled at him.”My ReviewThis is the definitive history of a 2+ year insurrection against the Confederate States of America led by Newton Knight (my first cousin, 4 times removed) and the Knight Company (a band of Civil War deserters) in Jones County, Mississippi (where I was raised). The background and reasons for this insurgency against the Confederacy are complex, and primarily relate to class: Jones County had the lowest slave population in all of Mississippi, not being blessed with the fertile lands of the Mississippi Delta region and many felt they were wrongfully called to fight the rich man plantation/slave owner's war for slaves and cotton.Newt Knight, a yeoman farmer who owned no slaves, enlisted for service early on and was injured in late 1861. Already angry upon hearing of the Confederacy's recent passage of the Twenty-Negro law allowing an exemption from Confederate army service of one rich white male for every 20 slaves he/his family owned, Knight decided to desert after hearing how his family was treated by an unsavory character with Confederate ties as well as how Knight's only horse had been appropriated by the Confederate cavalry as a Confederate tax levied. After returning to Jones County, he and his band unleashed hellfire upon Confederates.Quite a suspenseful drama is the whole story, including Knight's long-time affair with Rachel Knight, a slave of his father; the two had children together and ultimately became common law husband and wife. The racist drama continued well into the 20th century with a 1948 miscegenation trial of Davis Knight, one of the male descendants who'd married a "white lady." The trial turned upon whether Davis' great-grandmother, Rachel, was a "full-blooded Negro" or was partly Indian. If the latter then Davis would not be the proscribed 1/8 black (a so-called "octoroon").Bynum paints the story perfectly with her well-documented, thorough research and her more than capable recounting. In my opinion, this book betters the later book on the same subject by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer, The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy, that's based in large part on Bynum's hard work.

  • Maya B
    2019-02-03 20:02

    This was a very dry read. This book felt like a genealogy of the entire Knight family. It was a lot to take in and a lot to keep up with. I would compare this book to a textbook. It would have been great if the book focused on Newt Knight. His life seemed to be very interesting from what I read in this book

  • Sharon
    2019-02-17 15:07

    Some of my best friends would probably unfriend me if I tried to talk about this book and got my facts wrong, so I'm just going to say I enjoyed the book, and I'm fascinated with the topic.

  • Marion Morgan
    2019-02-10 17:03

    I finished this book months ago and still cannot believe that there is so much hidden about the South during the Civil War that I have been oblivious to. The book introduced me to real people of the South, who did not own slaves, saw the war for what it was, and then seceded from the Confederacy. Bynum does the best anyone has to date to separate fact from the myths that arose to cover up the horrible wrongs that were committed or to excuse ingrained practices, including miscegenation.

  • Bill
    2019-02-13 19:03

    I don't often pick up a book after seeing a movie, much less a movie trailer, but in this case I am glad I did. Victoria Bynum presents a detailed history of a rebellion of small farmers, deserters from the Confederate Army, and escaped slaves against the Confederate slave holding aristocracy. Loyal to the Union, Captain Newton Knight successfully fought off repeated Confederate cavalry raids from 1863 to the end of the Civil War, and was notorious throughout the next century not only for his successful resistance to the "Lost Cause," but also for his extended mixed race family. Knight has been alternately lauded for his daring and initiative in fighting off the Confederate Army and sustaining the people of a poor county in Mississippi and vilified for his defiance of the South's increasingly draconian segregation. Despite Professor Bynum's measured academic tone, the moving story of a gallant band who stood fast against the dark tide of secession and segregation shines forth. I highly recommend this book not only as an antidote to racist Southern mythology but also to the caricature of the South as uniformly illiterate and bigoted. Careful in its analysis, this story is also refreshing and inspirational in its humanity. One place where interested readers can continue the conversation is Professor Bynum's blog, Renegade South.

  • Debbie Jacob
    2019-02-09 22:01

    Deciding on how to rate this book was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make when it comes to rating a book. The story is fantastic, almost unbelievable, but the writing is stuffy, chronological history that really needed some life in it. I would have liked to get a better feeling for the characters. You really had to be interested in pursuing this story to not get bogged down in the detailed writing that tells rather that shows the story. It's hard to imagine a county that broke off from the Confederacy and declared itself an independent state. I wanted to really feel the people who made that decision. That need to see and feel those people is what kept me reading and that is why I gave The Free State of Jones a four. There's a lot to imagine for the movie coming out in June.

  • Matt Cleere
    2019-01-31 16:58

    A great look inside the Civil War south. Contrary to what confederate flag waiving Southerners like to think, not everybody in the South was keen on secession from the North. My family on my Mom's side are from Jones and Forest counties and many of them still live in that area. The "white" Knights of Jones county are something of a legend down there. This book really fleshes out that legend. Highly recommended.

  • Rachelle
    2019-02-02 16:56

    I have wanted to read this book for a long time because it takes place in Jones County, Mississippi where my ancestors lived during the Civil War. I wish they had been part of the Knight Company rebels, but my folks were fighting with the Confederates not against them. However, these men and women were their neighbors/cousins raised with all the same issues, culture, history and social codes. With over 100 pages of endnotes, bibliography and family trees, the scholarly work has given me a lot to research.

  • Alison
    2019-02-04 22:02

    This is a highly detailed and fabulously researched book about a fascinating and important subject. So it is a little disappointing that it is such a slog to read. Bynum's scholarship is beyond question, not just in assembling meticulous research among the locals of the region, but also in her analysis of the various factors leading both to the Union-sympathising rebellion and the mixed-race isolated community one of the rebels subsequently founded. But the book is overwhelmed by genealogical detail, and various anecdotes, never finding a clear narrative throughline. Which is a shame, because this story: this is a seriously awesome story.Part of the structural issue of the book is that Burnam is at pains *not* to make this the story of Newt Knight. Her reasons for this are really important: she is keen to clarify that the rebellion wasn't the result of one man's mission, but rather a reflection of broader schisms within Southern whites - the difference between cash-crop-based, slaveowning, capitalist-aspiring planters and self-sufficient libertarian farmers, whose priority was independence not wealth. She achieves this very well - the strongest parts of the book are the early chapters, which give context and background to Mississippi settlement and the communities which developed prior to the Civil War.The problem with not focusing on Newt, is that the second part of the book, which deals with the mixed-race community, is not based on that broader movement but rather just Newt, his wife Serena and Rachel Knight. Both Rachel and Serena seemed to have supported the rebellion, but their roles are left entirely unclear. Information about how Rachel arrived in the County is provided, but then she kinda slips out of the wealth of detail, re-emerging only in the final chapters to be very significant. Her role during the rebellion - even such basic things as whether she fled or not - is unremarked on.Bynum is also at lengths not to over interpret. But when it comes to race issues, this makes the book very disjointed. She pretty much abstains on what Newt's moral views on slavery were (nevermind anyone else's) - because there is no evidence - but it makes the whole discussion of the rebellion seem completely separate to the issues of race-based slavery, and equality. The book feels almost like two separate books, with the fairly crucial issue of how one led to the other: the rebellion to the mixed-race community - completely absent. And it is kinda the most interesting question.In contrast, the descendents of Newt and Rachel get better treatment, leading to some interesting musings on the nature of race, and it's essentially social nature. Overall, I would recommend this book, but I also think the topic is ripe for a treatment with a stronger focus on the through narrative of the community.

  • Delway Burton
    2019-01-31 14:13

    This book is soon to be a movie. I have long been fascinated how individuals caught in the great tides of history, can often have completely different experiences. Individual histories are not monolithic. The fictional novel, Cold Mountain, touched on the fact that the American Civil War was not all about epic battles. Ms. Bynum is a historian and this book reads like a text book, heavily based on genealogy. Keeping the characters even half-way straight took considerable effort and I was often lost. The history is of a corner of the American South that chose not to secede. In the piney woods of what is now southern Mississippi, yeoman farmers, mostly non-slaveholders, chose to desert the Confederate army and walk home. There they formed around a charismatic leader, Newt Knight, who established a paramilitary force to oppose the Confederacy. They fought guerrilla-style and while dozens were caught and hanged, most survived. Knight himself is a considerable mystery. He seems to have fathered many children, by three different women, two of whom were former slaves. He chose not to tell his story. Much of what we know of him are oral histories, many of which are suspect or outright wrong. His legacy gave rise to a mixed race community, called "white negroes," that persists until today. This also leads to the paradoxes and irreconcilable incongruities of race, the Civil War, and the nation today. The final point of the book is a trial that took place in 1948 in Mississippi, accusing a Knight descendent of miscegenation, marrying across the color line. This leads to the confused state of a mixed race person, a common occurrence today, in those biased times. DNA testing today solves the problem quickly, but then it was a matter of appearance, human perception and experience, which is entirely subjective. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood handles all this.

  • Janet
    2019-02-09 19:55

    These are my kind of people!

  • Lori
    2019-01-30 17:01

    Interesting but very dry.

  • Timothy Shea
    2019-01-27 19:19

    A well written, easy to read book. I learned a lot about anti-slavery efforts in the south as well as the anti-secessionist movement among yeoman farmers in Mississippi. Interesting stuff. I was particularly disgusted to learn of the origins of some racist myths that are still perpetuated today, some of which have come out of my state's governor's mouth.

  • Daryl Thompson
    2019-01-29 17:24

    A very enjoyable read about a subject I before knew nothing about. Before reading this book about the County of Jones Mississippi I thought I was a student of the Civil War. I learned a lot about Black history reading this book and the large part they had during the Civil war and this section of the country.

  • Rachel
    2019-01-28 17:09

    This book was very dry, and as much as I like Mahershala Ali as an actor, his quiet narration of the audiobook left something to be desired. The information is good and well-researched, but reads like a genealogy of the Knight family and a textbook history of race-relations in Mississippi.

  • Steven Traylor
    2019-01-23 18:08

    I liked it ieven though it was kind of a plod. Heavy with historical information and family trees, I watchedthe movie first then read this book I think that gave me more reason to want to read the book

  • Ashley Reyes
    2019-01-29 15:56

    Talk about dancing around the issue. This book talks more about the history surrounding the Free State than the state itself.

  • Paul
    2019-02-13 21:09

    About 3.5 stars. Fascinating history and story of class and race in the South. Well researched, drily told, but maybe no better alternative.

  • Adam Windsor
    2019-02-05 20:13

    If you're looking for a clean and straightforward account of what happened in Jones County before, during and after the Civil War ... well, you're not going to get it. Bynum's too dedicated to scholarly standards for that, and presents a multi-faceted situation via multiple facets, often comparing and contrasting two or three different accounts of an event with what the evidence actually supports having happened (this last often being a pretty scant resource, alas). Probably the cleanest and most readable sections are actually those which deal with the aftermath of the war, especially the mid 20th century court cases, as those have the best records remaining about them.Despite those challenges, I found this a pretty interesting read, as it presented a side of the Civil War about which I previously knew very little: that of anti-Confederate southerners.Fair warning: fully half the page count of the book is references & bibliography. If you're just here to read what happened, and aren't that worried about the scholarly foot notes that provide all primary sources, then the book's effectively about 170 pages long.

  • Patty
    2019-02-01 22:19

    I listened to this as an audio book. At the beginning that made it difficult because there were so many people and relationships to keep track of. If I'd have had a paper copy, I'd have flipped back and forth a lot. However, this is a history book not a novel (or even historical fiction) so I don't think I'd have made it through the book if I was reading and not listening. It is a compelling story about a difficult topic. It gives insight into race issues starting many years prior to the Civil War through modern times. I'm glad to understand this complex issue better than I did even though it is just one more perspective of many.

  • Scharenjo
    2019-01-20 19:59

    Essentially, this is a genealogy presented in paragraphs instead of using the more typical graphic organizer...however, those are available in the appendix. Bynum does a decent job of highlighting the complicated and often deadly outcomes of race relations in postbellum Mississippi but very little about the Knight Company is ever explained beyond it's roster. She frequently references the important role Rachel Knight played in the Knight Company, but I don't recall her ever detailing that role or explaining why Rachel was more critical to the company's success than other female allies. Overall, this was a highly disappointing read.

  • Leann Moore
    2019-02-06 21:13

    Having little background on the topic, I found this very hard to grasp. It was like reading a history book, where you haven’t taken the intro class yet. Once I started to grasp the timeline and the players, I began enjoying the paradoxes and hierocracy of the people and the legends. This definitely isn’t a “fun” or beach read, but it a very historically accurate and uses proven facts to compare two competing stories of the Free State of Jones. I would have liked to see it be a little less logically written. It took away from the undoubted unruly and emotional time.

  • Laura Trombley
    2019-01-30 17:01

    This is an interesting story of one county, one man, one family, one band of dissenters and the way history gets written down by people who interpret events to agree with their long standing assumptions.

  • Jacqueline
    2019-02-17 15:23

    I didn't get much out of this book because I couldn't concentrate on the narrator. The delivery threw me off completely. And so I may want to read it (actually with my eyes) to learn and to give it a proper review.

  • Az
    2019-01-23 20:04

    Well-researched and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the acknowledgment of gender roles, and race as a flexible concept.

  • Victoria
    2019-02-12 17:03

    I really wanted to like this book. Very dry. It was hard to get to the end. I abandoned it 3/4 the way.

  • Donna
    2019-01-19 18:57

    Was like reading a history book. Some bits were interesting but it was long winded.

  • Julie
    2019-02-05 15:58

    This was not what I was excepting.

  • John Buttell
    2019-02-08 21:14

    So much more than the amazing story of deserters, escaped slaves, their friends and families fighting the Confederacy in Piney Woods Mississippi. Bynum discovers the roots of one strain of Deep South unionism from the Revolutionary War era Regulator movement in the Carolinas through antimission Baptist churches in Mississippi. She traces the origins of the resistance in Jones county to families rooted in this tradition who, while not openly condemning slavery, made the decision to opt out of the plantation economy. Draft exemption for large slaveholders and a series of military defeats brought about a surge in desertion from the Confederate army in Mississippi. While most of these men went into hiding or later returned to their units, a group that formed around Newt Knight actively opposed the Confederate authorities. Despite a series of counterinsurgency campaigns the Knight Company survived and alongside its support network made up the core of unionism in the county through war and Reconstruction. Well into the twentieth century a community, referred to locally as "white negroes", descended from Newt Knight and the Rachel Knight, a former slave, lived in Jones County. These mixed-race people occupied an ambiguous and contested place in the racial hierarchy of Mississippi. Bynum also documents the struggle to define the legacy of the Knight Company in history, fiction and folklore. Members of the Knight family have played a prominent role in this dispute, looking to define and secure their place in society. "The Free State of Jones" shows that another South was, and is, possible.