The previews for The Free State of Jones are screening in theaters now, and the movie will be released in May. So there’s plenty of time between now and then to read the full history in Victoria E. Bynum’s book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War. (And now you can picture Matthew McConaughey in the role of Newt Knight and Gugu MBatha-Raw as Rachel Knight while you read. . . . )
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. In a new afterword, Bynum updates readers on the recent scholarship, the current issues of race and Southern heritage, and the coming movie that make this Civil War story essential reading.