On July 4, I "experienced" the new film starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell and Mahershala Ali, The Free State of Jones (video clip below).
McConaughey offers up a stunningly intense interpretation of the life and leadership of Jones County, Mississippi farmer, Newton Knight. Building a fighting, resistance force of "runaways," slave and free, Knight's influence at its apex extended across three southeast Mississippi counties.
As the Civil War raged throughout the South, coming at last to Vicksburg, Mississippi, Knight developed serious objections to the entire cause of the Confederacy. He analyzed the brutal conflict as a battle by the poor and dispossessed for the wealthy, and the hegemony of the landed gentry via the slave system. As one of Knight's fundamental principles put it: "No man should be made poor to make other men rich."
The true story reveals the amazing depth of the suffering of people of color in Mississippi before, during and after the Civil War. As I watched the film, an acidic grief flooded over me. To realize something of the pain, disappointment, suffering and heroic endurance of black Americans helps frame my work and my life.
Every person of age in the United States should view and grapple with this important film. Certainly, every white person needs to watch and inquire after this film.
People who don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, need to sit in a theater for a bit over the two hours necessary to soak in the rationale back of the request that as white folks, we just need to sit still, listen and learn those things about our history as a nation that we still don't want to face.
God, have mercy on us all.