May 23, 2019  

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“Free State of Jones” Author First Speaker for fall 2016 University Forum

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As fans of the book The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil Wareagerly await the June 24 release of its big screen adaptation, they can also look forward to comparing notes on both versions with its author Victoria Bynum at The University of Southern Mississippi.

The first speaker for the 2016-2017 University Forum series at USM, Bynum will present “The Free State of Jones: Legend, History, and Movie” Sept. 13 in Bennett Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. on the Hattiesburg campus.

In The Free State of Jones, Bynum told the story of Newt Knight’s renegade band of soldiers and the guerilla war they waged against the Confederacy. Rejecting the Confederate cause as a rich man’s war fought by poor white men, Knight and his Jones County Scouts evaded arrest for desertion, defied tax collectors and did what they could to support the Union.

Bynum will discuss in her University Forum presentation the legacy of Knight’s insurrection and how it shaped Southern (and southern Mississippi’s) history from the post-Civil War Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement to our present moment when the movie, starring Matthew McConaughey, is once again raising questions about Knight, the Civil War and race.  The program will include a question and answer period and book signing. 

“We’re looking forward to having Dr. Bynum as our first speaker for the fall University Forum,” said Dr. Andrew Haley, director of University Forum and an associate professor of history at USM. “I encourage everyone to see the movie and then join us in September to learn the rest of the story.”

Bynum is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Texas State University in San Marcos. In addition to writing about the Free State of Jones, she is the author of several books that explore the lives of Southern dissenters, including families that opposed the South’s secession, free blacks who defied the color line and unruly women who upended stereotypes of Southern belles.

University Forum, presented by the USM Honors College, is free and open to the public. For more information, visit, like the “Southern Miss Forum” Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @USMForum or email