Monday, May 25, 2020

Review of "Free State of Jones," DVD version

Review of

Free State of Jones, DVD version

Five out of five stars

A dose of historic reality

 When the history of the American Civil War and the aftermath of white backlash in the south are covered, there is little to no mention of the opposition that some whites expressed to slavery and the subsequent segregation. Not all whites in the Confederate states were in favor of the war and like all other wars, it was the poor men that largely fought and died. No person was more in opposition to the Confederate cause than Newt Knight, a poor farmer that became a soldier in the Confederate army.

 After a battle, Newt engages in an act of desertion, returning to his native Jones County, Mississippi. There he forms a makeshift army of runaway slaves, white deserters from the Confederate Army and poor white farmers angered by the confiscatory actions of the Confederate government. For a short time, the Confederate forces are expelled from an area encompassing three counties in Mississippi and he declares it a free state loyal to the Union.

 Newt also takes as his wife a former house slave, they have a boy with very light skin. Once the war is over and the Union occupation grows weaker, the Klan begins to ride and implement their reign of terror. What is often lost in the history books is that the Klan terror was not only directed at the blacks, but also against any white that may rise in opposition to segregation.

 There is a second timeline in this movie, that of a descendent of Newt that was declared to have a fraction of black blood and therefore could not legally marry a white woman. There is a formal trial of the descendent, with all the accoutrements of a trial based on arbitrary racial assignments and hatred.

 Since there is historical dispute about the actions of Newt Knight, to one side he was a bandit and a traitor and to the other he is a hero, it is impossible to determine how historically accurate this movie is. However, from the aspect of presenting the cultural circumstances of a courageous act of opposition and what happened in Mississippi after the war when there was in fact de facto slavery, it is movingly accurate.

No comments:

Post a Comment