Free State of Jones tells the cautionary history lesson of Newton Knight and the Reconstruction Era following the first Civil War. Newton (played by Matthew McConaughey), led the rebellion with the help of renegade slaves, against the Confederate army to stand up for economic justice and human rights. Its powerful messages and intense action scenes illustrated an epic tale of interracial allegiance, activism, and told a part of history that is often overlooked.
Knight, who originally served as a Confederate nurse during the Civil War abandons his post following the death of his kin. When he and other likeminded friends return home, they find their wives and families struggling to make ends meet under the harsh tax demands employed by the Confederates. Soldiers frequently raided homes, taking 10 percent or even more of food, livestock, or supplies. Knight soon becomes a deserter, exiling from Jones County into the Mississippi swamp where he finds companionship in runaway slaves and fellow deserters. Together, they banded together to fight against the Confederacy, ultimately driving the army out of Jones County. For the next few years the rebellion would be pushed in and out of Jones, finally diminishing in the winter of 1865. But the fight was far from over, as Newton led an interracial movement to push for voting and property rights for freed men.
McConaughey, along with Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), and Gugu Mbataha-Raw (Beyond the Lights) tell this story as authentically as possible. Their individual performances each trigger different emotions of anger, sorrow, and triumph. Viewers were furious when the Confederates stripped away acres of land from the people of Jones County. They wept with Gugu’s character, whom was repeatedly assaulted by her slave owner; and they rejoiced in the victory of the overtaking of the town, even if it only lasted for a short while.
But Free State of Jones is chock-full of takeaways or morals. And while there are common understandings of ‘slavery is bad,’ ‘people are not property,’ it’s the minor plot twists and the retold narratives of what actually happened during the Reconstruction Era, that provides interesting realizations. VIBE compiled a short list of the greatest takeaways from the Free State of Jones.