So, as most of you have seen, I believe, there is a new movie coming out with Matthew Mcconaughey called Free State of Jones. It’s a Civil War Era movie about renegade soldiers who leave the Confederate Army and, in turn, side with the Union. The “Free State of Jones” is actually a small county in South Mississippi, and this small county seceded from the Confederacy during this time. They fought the Confederate Army from behind enemy lines, and were led by Newton Knight, a poor farmer who decided enough was enough. Now, this sounds like some war-story that someone made up. But, if you think that, you are mistaken. Here are a few key points to understand right now:
- The Free State of Jones is a real place.
- Newton Knight was a real man.
- This all is based on a true story.
- And it’s part of my own family heritage.
I was born and raised in the far east side of Jones County, in the little communities of Soso/Big Creek where Newton Knight’s descendants still reside today. The community I grew up in is on the banks of the Leaf River riverbeds and swamps, nicknamed Cracker’s Neck, and is identical to the swamps of Newt Knights time. To this day, there are two distinct versions of who Newt Knight was. The first version, he was a turn-coat deserter who fought his own friends and family, favored the company of free slaves over white folks, and did the unthinkable in his day and age: married a black woman. The second version, he was a savior. He fought to free slaves, he didn’t see color, just people. He fought this “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” to stop rich white slave owners from sending their slaves to fight for them.
Newt Knight was a man of many hats, including army general, rebel, family man, and poor farmer. This movie is bringing to light a long standing historical time period that no one knew existed: a time when the most racist state in the country turned in on itself to end slavery.
I won’t go into the details of the movie, but it’s one that I know our entire state is dying to see. It’s opening this weekend, and from what I’ve been told, every theater in the surrounding area is sold out for the entire weekend. This movie will be one that will change the perspective of so many who deem our state the worst state in the USA. And this isn’t just “some county in Mississippi”…this is the county I was born and raised in. Some of these places were right down the road from where I grew up. I went to school with his great-great-great-grand kids, and I’m actually related to Newt Knight…from his first set of children. Seriously…this movie is going to be something else for the world to see…it’s a glimpse into our state that movies like Mississippi Burning ruined, and I can’t wait to see how people respond to it.
If the movie is available in your area, leave a comment and tell me your thoughts on it so far, I’d love to hear from everyone!
This is the link to the interviews for the writer of Free State of Jones from the Smithsonian. He mentions a lot of the places in the surrounding county, including our little towns of Laurel and Ellisville, where the story of Newt Knight unfolds. Let me know what you think in the comments!