Mississippi-America’s Richest State?
Free State of Jones is a new movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The movie is fictional but many of the events in the movie are true. It is about a real person named Newton Knight. He lived in Jones County Mississippi during the American Civil War. His grandfather John Knight owned a lot of slaves in Jones County but his father Albert did not. In fact, Albert was the only one of John’s children that did not inherit any slaves.
The story is based on the history of Jones County, Mississippi during the American Civil War and the period following the war. Newton Knight was farmer, a soldier, and a southern Unionist. What? What? A southern Unionist? What is that? The term southern Unionist describes many white people that were against the Civil War and against their states leaving the United States to form a new country. They were all over the south. Southern Unionists had their own reasons for being against the war. They had their own reasons for being against leaving the Union. Newton Knight was against slavery but all southern Unionists were not.
In Mississippi, many southern Unionists didn’t want war. Many did not want to secede from the Union. Some did not want to secede because they were patriots. Some did not want to leave the Union because things were just too good in Mississippi just the way they were. Mississippi had more Unpaid Laborers than any other state. Fifty-five percent of the state’s population or 437,000 people were Unpaid Laborers in 1860. They were producing vast amounts of cotton-the state’s most valuable crop and the most valuable crop in the nation. People wanting to get rich were pouring into Mississippi.
In 1817, Mississippi became a state. By 1860 so much wealth was being produced in the state of Mississippi from cotton that Mississippi became the richest state in the entire country. By 1860 there were more millionaires per region in Mississippi than in any other place in the United States. That’s right! Without the contribution of Americans of African descent, Mississippi would not have become the most successful state in the one of the most successful nations in modern history in 1860.