During the Civil War, some Mississippi soldiers decided they didn’t want to fight for the Confederacy. The anti-Confederate rebellion in Jones County was led by Newton Knight, who opposed slavery and secession.
In the spring of 1864, the Knight Company overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones, and some say it actually seceded from the Confederacy. This little-known, counterintuitive episode in American history has now been brought to the screen in Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) and starring a grimy, scruffed-up Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight.
That sounds like a fascinating slice of history. An article at Smithsonian looks at what really happened in Ellisville during the Civil war, and Knight’s life after the war, when he separated from his wife Serena, married a former slave, and left an entire community of mixed-race descendants. The article also looks at the making of the film, and the divided reception of the movie project in Mississippi, where some consider Newt Knight a hero and many still hate him. You can also see a trailer for the upcoming film Free State of Jones.