The grandson of a wealthy Mississippi slave-owner, Newton Knight was an abolitionist and two-time rebel deserter who actively fought against the Confederacy, and bore a large family with a former slave. His home, Jones County, Miss., saw great hardship during the Civil War; Confederate taxes "pushed small farm families, who provided the rank and file foot soldiers, to the brink of destitution." Jenkins (The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation) and Stauffer (Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln) employ painstaking research into Knight and Jones County, resulting in an engaging and original portrait of life inside the Confederacy. Knight's Scouts, formed after Vicksburg set off a wave of rebel desertions, carried out their own justice in Jones County, using clever techniques for communication, intimidation and warfare against the home team ("the sorts of exploits" that Sherman would appreciate). Knight's post-war efforts for equality included building an integrated school; when residents objected to his own mixed-race children attending, however, Knight burned it to the ground. Spanning more than 100 years, this family story brings home the lasting effects of hate and fear, love and acceptance, as well as the strides that have brought us to where we are.
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Praise for THE STATE OF JONES
“Just when you thought you had heard it all about the Civil War, along comes The State of Jones, an astonishing tale of rebellion within the heart of rebel territory. This is a riveting and memorable read about resistance, courage, love and, most of all, the long trail of justice and injustice in the American South. I couldn’t put it down.”
“The State of Jones is history at its finest and most captivating. The documentation is meticulous, yet this gem of a book reads like a novel, with a revelation at every turn. Jenkins and Stauffer have proved once again that the real history of this country is far more complex and fascinating than the prevailing mythology.”
–David Maraniss, author of They Marched Into Sunlight and When Pride Still Mattered
"In The State of Jones, Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer locate the real Civil War–and the story of our greatest national trial–in all of its specificity and moral complexity. Their research is meticulous and transparent; their writing is evocative and clear; their use of source materials and authentic voices is arresting; and their intuition about why history of this kind matters is unfailing."
–Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars
“Jones and Stauffer tell this story with verve and insight, providing a richly detailed, dramatic narrative that is a valuable contribution to the historical literature.”
–James Simon, author of Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney
"Here is the Civil War as it really was. You can't fully know America's epic until you've read this powerful book."
–David Von Drehle, author of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
“A marvelous story of loyalty and treason, race and blood, war and peace. The State of Jones is as compelling as it is unlikely, a tale of insurrection that illuminates the larger insurrection of our Civil War.”
–Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn
“Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer tell the fascinating tale of an unforgettable figure–6’4” Mississippi yeoman farmer Newton Knight, and his beguiling “second wife” and former slave, Rachel. The authors follow the Knight family’s extraordinary lives over the course of six decades and in the process open a window onto a forgotten corner of the American landscape.”
–Philip B. Kunhardt III, co-author of Looking for Lincoln
"Highly readable and informative." --Chicago Sun-Times
From the Hardcover edition.