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Sept. 13 University Forum to Feature “Free State of Jones” Author

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Dr. Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil Warwill return to The University of Southern Mississippi Tuesday, Sept 13 as speaker for the first fall 2016 University Forum, titled “Free State of Jones: History and Memory.” The event is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus.

Bynum, a professor of history at Texas State University, will compare versions of the Free State of Jones from the genres of folklore (legend), history, and cinema, emphasizing the contrasting effects of time and place, memory, documentation, and imagination on each. Her popular book’s examination of the life of Newt Knight and his renegade army’s resistance to the Confederacy in Jones County, Miss. inspired this past summer’s film “Free State of Jones” starring Matthew McConaughey.

“Although folktales, academic histories, and Hollywood screenplays may appear irreconcilable, on closer examination, they are interdependent and may even complement one another in revealing an elusive past,” Bynum said.

Dr. Andrew Haley, director of University Forum and associate professor of history, said the popularity of this summer’s film demonstrates the enduring interest of the fascinating history found in “Free State of Jones.”  

“William Faulkner wrote that the past 'is never dead’ and I think Victoria Bynum’s talk will prove his point,” Haley said. “More than 150 years after Newt Knight’s rebellion against the Confederacy demonstrated Jones County’s tendency to cut their own path through history, we are still struggling to ascribe meaning to Knight’s life.”

University Forum is presented by the Southern Miss Honors College. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. For more information about this event, e-mail