The Free State of Jones (Paperback)

Mississippi's Longest Civil War

By Victoria E. Bynum

University of North Carolina Press, 9780807854679, 336pp.

Publication Date: February 24, 2003

List Price: 35.00*
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Description

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.
The story of the Jones County rebellion is well known among Mississippians, and debate over whether the county actually seceded from the state during the war has smoldered for more than a century. Adding further controversy to the legend is the story of Newt Knight's interracial romance with his wartime 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.
Victoria Bynum traces the origins and legacy of the Jones County uprising from the American Revolution to the modern civil rights movement. In bridging the gap between the legendary and the real Free State of Jones, 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.

"An original and cogent piece of scholarship on a devilishly complicated and demanding subject."--"Washington Times"
"Bynum deserves much praise for her ability to negotiate the minefield of myth and legend to produce a study that not only makes a tremendous contribution to scholarship but is a compelling read as well. Thoroughly researched, thoughtfully argued, well-written, and unfailingly interesting, Bynum's work further demonstrates the potential of local studies to shed light on broader forces that have shaped the American past."--"H-Net"
"Bynum has fashioned frustratingly disparate material into an important book that may cause historians who are skeptical about putting too much stress on an 'inner' Civil War to rethink their position."--"American Historical Review"
"Powerful, revisionist, and timely, Bynum's book combines superb history with poignant analysis of historical memory and southern racial mores."--"Choice"
Piercing through the myths that have shrouded the "Free State of Jones," Victoria Bynum uncovers the fascinating true history of this Mississippi Unionist stronghold, widely believed to have seceded from the Confederacy, and the mixed-race community that evolved there. 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.