Learning From Newt Knight


Do you know the story of Newt Knight? I want to talk about a great movie called Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, and Mahershala Ali. Let me share a few thoughts for those who have already seen it and those who are considering it.

Sadly, we can sometimes find more truth in cinema than in our media nowadays. Free State is a great story, and Gary Ross did a great job on the project. However, there are a few takeaways from the movie that I believe will be missed by many. I do not think I would be doing my job if I did not point these out and make a lesson about them. So let me take a moment to give you some food for thought. Whether you have seen Free State or will eventually, make sure that these points are not missed.

Based on a true story, Free State of Jones does a fantastic job of bringing some amazing facts to the silver screen that are actively trying to be obscured by both this government and the media. One could go as far as to say that such facts are even being obscured by academia. Unfortunately, this is one of those stories that I believe most Americans should review because it is a story of unity and conservative values.

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. As you know, this war was really about State Rights, and it resulted in the death of more than 700,000 Americans, with millions more injured. It was brother against brother, father against son, and slave against master, and this war helped shape the future of what America would eventually become: left vs. right.

In 1863, there was a Mississippi farmer named Newt Knight. He served as a medic for the Confederate Army. Like quite a few Southerners, Knight opposed slavery. Hopefully, by now, this does not seem too counter-intuitive. Still, for added clarity, even General Robert E. Lee once wrote to his wife, “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.” In fact, Lee’s wife and her mother not only tried to educate slaves, but they tried to free them and fund their move to Liberia. I digress.

Consider our Confederate Flag discussion earlier. Some would argue that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of the side of those who sought to keep people as property. Perhaps, but did you know that when General Lee finally surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, it had been almost 20 years since Lee even owned slaves? So what was he fighting for? Yet, people want to tear down his monuments despite being admired and honored by those in the North. These stories reverberate throughout history but often go untaught; I suppose this is much like the story of black slave owners or white slaves. The stories of Newt Knight or Lee are no exception.

Knight seemed to be a good man, for the most part. He chose to be a medic because he did not want to fight the Union. Still, he believed in Constitutionally Authorized Functions and voluntarily joined the Confederates to avoid being conscripted. Regardless, for some men, this can only go so far. The movie shows the death of his nephew, at which time Knight returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family. Unfortunately, he was labeled a deserter and an outlaw and forced to flee.

Knight soon finds refuge with a small band of runaway slaves deep in the swamps. Their trials and tribulations provide them the courage to stand against the Confederates, who are stealing from the poor and enriching the powerful. Many families were fed up because the women couldn’t feed their kids due to the rampant theft of food by the Confederates. Soon, with the runaways and other fed-up farmers, Knight led a rebellion that would forever change history.

In the spring of 1864, Newt Knight and his men (along with some women) overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County. They raised the United States (Union) flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville, and the county was soon known as the Free State of Jones. Think about that for a second. Newt Knight rebelled against the rebels. This was not the end of their problems, but I do not want to spoil the entire movie for you.

After the war, Knight was hired by the Reconstruction government to free children from masters refusing to emancipate them. He was pretty good at it too. Knight would die of old age, having fathered many children between his “ex-wife” (separated) Serena and a former slave, Rachel. Newt Knight deeded 160 acres of land to Rachel, making her one of the few African-American landowners in Mississippi then.

Some Points Worth Noting

You will notice that Knight and his men were registered Republicans and that the Democrats were very upset about this. This was one of the bloodiest elections on record. Moses would eventually be lynched for registering black citizens to vote.

Notice that the ones who were doing the lynching were the Ku Klux Klan. Founded in 1866 by angry rebels, this organization (as demonstrated very well in the movie) was an organization comprised of Democrats who despised both blacks and Republicans. Of course, this trend of racism would continue with powerful Democrats such as Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, Robert Byrd, and many others to this day (Lehr, 2015; Riggs, 2010).

Also, notice how the men running the polling station did not want to provide Republican tickets. They only wanted to offer Democrat tickets. And even though every black Republican voted Republican during that election, somehow, at that voting station, they only counted the two Republican votes the white men had cast. How interesting is it that, as far back as the 1860s, the Democrats were committing election fraud – another practice that continues today (Brown, 2016)?

I find irony in the preceding. It seems times are not so different today. With over fifty years of promises, the poor are poorer and seemingly more reliant on the government today than ever before (Hawkins, 2014). Corruption seems to be much more significant than ever before as well.

The Kansas Secretary of State recently released the newest data from the interstate voter registration crosscheck program, which crosschecks the voter registrations across 28 states. They found at least 7.2 million registrations that have appeared in at least two states at once. That sounds bad, but it gets worse. More than 916,000 people were registered multiple times within their state of residence, and 68,000 registered voters had “invalid” dates of birth (Schoffstall, 2017). And this does not begin to address the volume of evidence slowly beginning to emerge regarding recent elections.

Thanks to government-run education, mass distraction, and unethical media, history is forgotten and seemingly repeating itself. I suppose that is why the myth that the parties switch sides perpetuates. Regardless, if you have not watched Free State of Jones, I encourage you do. Free State was an inspirational piece. If you are interested in some of the underlying drama (of which there was plenty), be sure to look up the entire story of Mr. Knight and his family.