Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Free State of Jones: The Rebellious Newton Knight

I was leaving a less-than-stellar movie recently, when I was immediately cheered up by seeing the poster for The Free State of Jones, set to be released this May. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, as I've read one of the two books on which this film is based. The story of Newton Knight, of Jones County, Mississippi is an incredible one of a man waging guerilla warfare against the then-powerful Confederacy, made all the more astounding because this man was one of them. Newton Knight was a Confederate soldier who reluctantly joined up so as not to be conscripted away from his friends. Not long after, however, he deserted and proceeded to wreak havoc on a system he'd always considered unjust. Hiding in the swamps, he proclaimed his native area Free State of Jones, and fighting along with runaway slaves, farmers and former soldiers, he worked to undermine those who would foment grave crimes against humanity and exploit those working to make a basic living. In the midst of his heroic deeds, Mr. Knight,  although already married to Serena, with kids of their own, formed a common-law marriage with Rachel, one of his grandfather's former slaves, living openly with her and their children, a fairly revolutionary act at the time. Upon Rachel's untimely death in 1899  "Capt" Knight as he became known, insisted on having her buried in his family plot, where he lies next to her. Through his adult life, Newton Knight worked alongside those suffering from the deepest oppression to achieve harmony and bring about a more ideal America that we still struggle towards today.

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