The Free State of Jones :: A rich man's war and a poor man's fight
It's not the best movie in terms of story-telling, but as an addition to the ever growing number of Civil War movies it's an excellent one and a very necessary one. Not a box office success, but a movie with great educational value.
The Free State of Jones :: A rich man's war and a poor man's fight
By William Peynsaert / projectauthenticity.org

It's not the best movie in terms of story-telling, but as an addition to the ever growing number of Civil War movies it's an excellent one and a very necessary one.

It doesn't have much gut emotional appeal, due to the fact that we don't get time to really become fond of the characters in the movie. It has some very memorable scenes though, such as the time the main character lines up armed little girls to scare of a greedy foraging party. The story may grab you less than, let's say, Dances With Wolves or Braveheart or Platoon, but the acting is good, and so is the historical context.

20 slave law

The movie shows the effects of the infamous '20 slave law' in the Confederacy. If a Confederate soldier owned 20 slaves he could pack his bags and head home, and leave his poorer neighbours to do all the fighting for him. On top of that Southern civilians were visited by requisitioning officers who combed their small farms for everything that could be of service to the army. Especially poorer families were hard hit. At the same time the Southern planter elite refused to grow more foodstuffs to alleviate the hunger pangs of poorer whites. They preferred to grow cotton for profit, even in the midst of a war that was becoming a huge strain of the wannabe Confederate nation. This aspect isn't fully shown in the movie, but it's bad enough slaveowners who had 20 blacks back home could leave the front. In combination with the growing despair on the homefront, mainly among poor white women, and crushing defeats at the front, more and more soldiers deserted and went home. The movie does not overgeneralize and also depicts a soldier at the front who is fighting for his 'honor'. Civil War soldiers had many different reasons for joining the fight. Some indeed, did so for their 'honor', though matters such as the 20 slave law opened the eyes of many Southern whites as to the true nature of the conflict.

freestateofjones_cms

In some cases they become openly hostile to the Confederate authorities. The movie is centered around the figure of Newton Knight, a man who became openly rebellious and managed to wrest quite a big chunk of territory from Confederate control, especially given the limited means at his disposal. The territory became known as the 'kingdom of Jones' or 'the free state of Jones'.

The 'crime' of an octoroon

The movie also shows the virulent racism in the deep South during and after the war. Most telling are flashforwards to a descendant of Newton Knight, who is one eight black and faces trial. His crime? He has married a white woman. His one eight of 'black' blood is enough to be considered a negroe. This and the fate of a black political organizer are some of the more painful scenes. After centuries of racial violence one would be unrealistic to hope it would just blow over now. Generations of violence can't be undone with the stroke of a pen. It will take several generations and the acts of brave men and women to say no to racisme.

Movies like these can inspire us by drawing our attention to people such as Newton Knight, who went entirely against the tide of the times they lived in, by standing up against oppressive forces and by ignoring shallow and degrading social conventions. In the movie we see him save a child from a new form of slavery after slavery has ended. He also treats black members of his band as equals, and he goes and lives together with a black woman with whom he has several children. He had children with his white wife as well, whom he never divorced, and both families seem to have lived in harmony, not far from each other.

The Confederacy (1861-1865) :: Died of class divisions

The character development in the movie stays rather on the surface, but this is one of the first Civil War movies to clearly depict deep class divisions in the Confederacy and the first one to hint at the fact that these class divisions have a lot to do with the eventual defeat of the Confederate States of America.

On top of all this the movie shows how slavery was reinstated after the war, in anything but name. The conclusion can be that the Confederacy lost the war, but won the peace. It did not win its independency, but it managed, for more than a century after the end of slavery, to deny black people the same rights as white people. After a brief period in which free blacks gained significant political power, they were prevented in many different ways from enjoying their new liberties.

The movie was a box office bomb, making about 21 milion dollars, against a 50 milion production budget (see: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=freestateofjones.htm). The characters are simply not developped enough and therefore lack the necessary emotional appeal to turn the movie into a hit, but it's certainly an excellent movie to show and analyze in a history class.

PS It has very realistic battle scenes, which, in the context of a drama movie, dissapoint in comparison to battle scenes in Civil War movies such as Cold Mountain or Glory

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins · 7,671 views today · When Belinda Hankins got a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, who was shopping for period products, it started an exchange that will resonate with women everywhere. Enjoy.
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 7,015 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 5,300 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 2,950 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 2,565 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
What You Might Notice If You Forgot Your Phone For a Day
2 min · 2,226 views today · There is a moment happening right in front of you, right this second, and you just might be missing it
Ikigai - Finding Your Reason for Being
Chip Richards · 1,800 views today · What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical...
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,675 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 1,445 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 1,352 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,158 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 1,014 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 896 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 843 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 676 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 650 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 541 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Forest Man
16 min · 527 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 475 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 474 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Free State of Jones :: A rich man's war and a poor man's fight