Based on True Events From the Civil War
in Jones County Mississippi
A powerful movie set during the Civil War and transitions into the post war Reconstruction era where the South struggled to give up its obsessions with slavery, white superiority, and prejudice. The movie centered around Newton (Newt) Knight (McConaughey) and his struggle with fighting on the side of the Southern rich plantation owners and the historical enemy of the South, the Union. Newt’s internal struggles are compounded by his affinity for the Blacks of the South and their humanity and struggles. Interspersed throughout the movie are brief snaps from Mississippi in 1948 where his cousin Davis Knight, who appears to be white, is being tried for miscegenation (the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types), due to his family ties with the Civil War Knights. This time juxtaposition is a stark reminder of the stubborn vestiges of prejudice and that the Civil War did not end the injustices suffered by our new Black citizens.
Set within the context of the Civil War are love stories between Newt Knight and his first wife Serena (Keri Russell) and their son, and then between Newt and Rachael, (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) his second wife. Rachael was a slave women who helped Newt and Serena save their son from fever and then assisted Newt in his fight against the Confederacy to free the slaves of his county and ultimately to declare a three county area as the Free State of Jones under the Union Flag.
The story also told of the difficulties the Blacks endured to become “voting citizens” in a South that continued to enact servitude laws intended to maintain a form of slavery while not directly violating the 15th Amendment. The film portrayed the terrorism by the democrat KKK and the attempts to keep Blacks from voting. As the Blacks were all Republicans, the Southern Democrat politicians fought hard to disenfranchise the freed slaves. Newt Knight and his other white followers fought alongside of the freed Blacks to ensure that they were allowed to vote in spite of “voting irregularities”, i.e., the Democrats usually could not “find” all of the “Republican” ballots that were cast.
The story serves as a stark contrast to today’s misunderstanding of Civil War History and the Republicans struggle to help free and keep the Blacks free from the bondage of slavery, and then to defend them from disenfranchisement, Jim Crow Laws, and the ravages of the KKK. This fight was evident during the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Republican majorities overcame Democrat votes against the act to insure its passing. It is a shame that history has been rewritten to exclude the true nature of the Black struggle and those who stood beside them.
Background History: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-free-state-jones-180958111/?no-ist