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, legend has it, they declared the Free State of Jones.Victoria Bynum traces the origins and legacy of the Jones County uprising from the American Revolution to the modern civil rights movement. 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.Adding further controversy to the legend is the story of Newt Knight's interracial romance with his 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.The film The Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight and directed by Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) is releasing in cinemas worldwide in May 2016.
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