Newton Knight– abolitionist guerrilla leader in Mississippi

first_imgA hidden history of the Civil WarEver hear of the First Alabama Cavalry, or the name Newton Knight? Not likely. The capitalist media have always promoted stories of “former Confederate soldiers” who loyally served the Confederacy, loved Gen. Robert E. Lee, had no issue with slavery and so on. But there is another story, a hidden history, of poor white opposition to the Confederacy and to slavery.Newton KnightNewton Knight was a poor white farmer who fought the Confederacy with all his might. The First Alabama Cavalry was an anti-slavery pro-Union cavalry, mostly white but also Black, about 2,000 in total, whose members fought the Confederacy and eventually were escorts for Gen. Sherman during his historic march through Georgia in 1864.By far the greatest opposition to slavery came from the enslaved themselves, who always had escape in mind, aided both the Union army and Confederate deserters, fought for the right to fight the Confederacy, and heroically struggled for their freedom at every turn. But there was also significant opposition to the Confederacy from poor whites in every slave state.There is no better example than Knight, the leader of a guerilla group that fought the Confederacy and declared the “Free State of Jones” in Jones County, Miss. In 1921, Knight, aged 84 and living in obscurity, called on Meigs Frost, a reporter for the New Orleans Item, to tell his story and “get the true facts about Jones County during the war.” His life story was recorded in “The State of Jones” by Sally Jefferson and John Stauffer. (Doubleday, 2009)Mississippi, a land of large plantations and small farms, was the largest cotton-producing state in the South — cotton produced by the backbreaking forced labor of enslaved Africans. It was a land of rich, slave-owning aristocrats, 500,000 enslaved people, and poor white farmers.Jones County contained some of the poorest soil and poorest farmers in the state. It also had no sympathy for the slave owners. In 1861, the vote in Jones County was overwhelmingly for the anti-secession candidate. But the delegates in Jackson, Miss., represented only the powerful, not the popular, and Mississippi was the second state to secede. Many suspected of Union sympathies were lynched. It was a reign of terror.Knight, well known for his anti-slavery views, joined the Confederate army under threat of arrest and served as a hospital orderly, deserting soon after. He hid out in the swamps of northern Mississippi, learning what life was like for a runaway slave, and that the enslaved people aided Confederate deserters. He wasn’t captured without a fight. Manacled, flogged and taken to prison, Knight was given a choice: fight for the Confederacy or face a firing squad. But it wasn’t long after that that he deserted again, after Vicksburg, Miss., fell to the Union.This time, Knight found company with large bands of fellow deserters and organized. According to Jefferson and Stauffer, “The Newton Knight who returned to Jones County after Vicksburg was a strike-first killer and dedicated enemy of the Confederacy.” As many as 200 in number, the former soldiers elected Knight their captain, calling themselves “The Jones County Scouts,” and declared independence from the Confederacy.It didn’t take long for the Scouts to make a name for themselves, raiding Confederate supply convoys, distributing food to destitute families and helping to free any enslaved people that they could. For example, once the guerilla band seized the local Confederate conscription officer and “in broad daylight called him outside and voted on whether to hang him. He was ‘paroled’ after swearing to leave and never again enter the county.”According to local legend, when Major Amos McLemore of the Confederate army visited Jones County in 1863 to search out deserters, Knight shot him point blank in the head with a shotgun at a local tavern. However, “no one in the room could identify the attacker.”The Scouts had strong allies in the Black population, giving them food, ammunition, information and other supplies. There is no hard information about the composition of the guerilla army, except that “every day more blacks liberated from plantations came into the swamps to join the struggle.”Many enslaved people risked life and limb to help, particularly Rachel, an enslaved person, who married Knight after the war. According to Jenkins and Stauffer, “They had an agreement, she would provide him with food and he would work to secure her freedom.” Knight was as good as his word. Eventually, he committed a “crime” in post-Reconstruction Mississippi by recognizing their own children and fighting for their right to attend school. Rachel and Newton were buried together outside a cemetery, because it was also “illegal” to have integrated cemeteries at the time.The Confederacy responded with fierce repression against the guerrillas. Like the Pentagon did in Vietnam 100 years later, the slaveowners’ army tried to force them out of the swamps by torturing their families, ruining their farms, stealing their food and animals, and beating their spouses and children. An entire regiment of about 500 soldiers was sent to terrorize Jones County. Ten guerrillas were lynched, left hanging as a warning to others. But as soon as the Confederate army left to other war fronts, the Scouts reorganized. Eventually 53 scouts escaped to join the Union army.Newton Knight must rank among the heroes of the Civil War. Thousands of poor whites throughout the South followed his example and became pro-Union. It is no accident that his story was drowned out in the mythology of the neofascist post-Reconstruction period. As false as the racist myth of the “happy” slave of Disney cartoons is the myth that every poor white farmer of the Civil War South was racist and 100-percent loyal to the Confederacy.Due to the Civil Rights Movement, the new Black Lives Matter movement and the campaigns against the Confederate flag of slavery, the truth about the anti-slavery struggle continues to surface. According to Jenkins and Stauffer, “Newton Knight had more in common with the slaves he had met in the swamps, who treated him better and showed him more basic humanity than the Confederate authorities who claimed to be his countrymen.”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Election campaign impossible for opposition media

first_img RSF_en News TunisiaMiddle East – North Africa November 12, 2019 Find out more Tunisians go to the polls on Sunday 25 October to elect a president and renew the National Assembly. The result of the election is not in doubt. The sole question is by what percentage Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali will be re-elected.As the monthly Afrique-Asie headlined its special issue of October 2009 “Tunisia, why it works”, Reporters Without Borders, including its secretary general Jean-François Julliard, went to Tunis on 12-15 October to observe how the media, particularly those linked to the opposition, manage to cover the campaign as well as to check the access of some opposition parties to the public media. “Pluralism in news is still not a reality in Tunisia. It is unfortunately particularly true in an election campaign. President Ben Ali is splashed on the front pages of newspapers that are tireless in his praise. The columns of the state-run and pro-government newspapers are brimming with messages of congratulations and support for the candidate-president. The same goes for television and radio. Unfavourable opinions of the head of state are largely absent from media and Tunisians do not have access to balanced news and information”, said Jean-François Julliard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders on his return from a fact-finding visit to Tunis. “We also condemn the attitude of the Tunisian authorities who prevent Tunisian journalists and foreign correspondents from doing their work. The police presence is permanent during this electoral period. Opposition activists, independent journalists, human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists are closely watched. This state of affairs is unacceptable,” the organisation added. Organisation News Problems for opposition mediaLate in the evening of 10 October, the eve of the opening of the campaign, the interior minister confiscated issue 149 of Ettajdid’s party newspaper al-Tariq al-Jadid (The new path) which carried the party’s manifesto for the presidential elections, when the copies were still at the printers. The party was accused of “violating electoral law” even though not a single copy of the paper had been distributed.These two examples perfectly illustrate how the Tunisian authorities use every means at their disposal to gag the opposition which decided to take part in the elections. Hatem Chaabouni, head of information for Ettajdid, told Reporters Without Borders that “the campaign is being carried more in foreign media that in Tunisian media, given that most of them belong to the regime and the others support it.” The daily news bulletin of the sole privately owned radio, Mosaïque, is made up entirely of reports from the official Tunisian news agency ATP. The same goes for the Arabic-language daily Ash-Shourouq. The dailies As-Sabah and Le Temps, owned by the head of state’s son-in-law, Sakher Al-Materi, gives no space to the opposition.Hichem Skik, joint editor of al-Tariq al-Jadid, also referred to censorship on the part of the Superior Information Council, of the actual content of the candidate’s programmes. So that in Ettajdid’s manifesto, the council called for five points to be changed, since their content was not “correct”, according to interior ministry criteria. The ministry also blocked distribution of the party’s posters, arguing that the name ‘Alliance’ and the logo used by the party were not in conformity with the register of parties legally recognised by the state. Reporters Without Borders noted that, because of this disagreement, the advertising inserts reserved for their party were left blank in the capital and that in other cities, posters had been torn down. Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder The public press overflows with praise for Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.The announcement, on 15 October, by the daily La Presse, of the support of the Tunisian Association of Newspaper Editors (Atdj) for the candidacy of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali constitutes a disturbing break with press neutrality towards the candidates. The Atdj “welcomes the ongoing presidential attention to the news sector,”, “with the objective of improving its content and boosting its contribution to deepening the democratic pluralist experience in Tunisia” (Page 5 of La Presse).La Presse, on page 4 of its 13 October edition stresses “the support of national organisations for the Head of State’s election programme”, underlining the “pertinence of vision and the rightness of the steps contained in the keynote speech” of 12 October. Page 8 of the same edition is devoted to comments singing the praises of the candidate-president Ben Ali, who is campaigning on the theme “Together, we will meet the challenge”. The French-language daily did not give the same amount of space to the speeches of the other candidates, who got, at best, a quarter of a page.Le Temps, in its 13 October edition, announcing the opening of the election campaign, made no mention of opposition parties, while the activities of the candidate-president were the subject of a double page spread (Page 4 and 5). Same thing in its 14 October edition, in which just over a page (Page 4 and 5) was given over to Ben Ali’s campaign.The 14 October edition of La Presse vaunts the support of the “resisters and militants” for the “presidential election programme (which) lays the foundations of a forward-looking and more radiant future” (P.4). It picks up the idea that the re-election would be a “historic new step on the path to democracy and pluralism”, having no hesitation in referring to Ben Ali as “saviour” (P.5). The newspaper also refers to the support of a delegation of 17 Arab ambassadors for the National Elections Observatory (P.5) on page 7, a quarter of a page is dedicated to opposition parties, but Ettajdid does not get a mention. The same thing is repeated in the 15 October edition. TunisiaMiddle East – North Africa December 26, 2019 Find out more The web still being targetedReporters Without Borders was able to verify that the election campaign did nothing to change censorship of the web in Tunisia by the cyber-police. Several opposition websites cannot be seen in Tunisia. Several opposition figures do not have access to their emails, since passwords of messaging services or computer IP addresses have been changed. Facebook pages are watched round the clock and the slightest criticism of the ruling party leads to them being blocked.The organisation points out that many journalists and bloggers, such as Slim Boukhdhir and Mokhtar Yahyawi, have been deprived of their right to a passport; that Lotfi Hajji, correspondent for al-Jazeera in Tunisia, has still not obtained his official accreditation despite repeated applications over the past five years; that Sihem Ben Sedrine is still facing legal proceedings for “using a frequency without permission” and for launching radio Kalima. She faces up to five years in prison. Tunisia is ranked 154th out of 175 countries in the organisation’s 2009 world press freedom rankings. News Opposition candidate’s access to public mediaThe 13-day election campaign opened officially on Sunday 11 October for both the presidential and legislative elections. The Constitutional Council has validated four candidates for the presidency. The outgoing president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), Mohamed Bouchiha of the Party of People’s Unity (PUP), Ahmed Inoubli of the Unionist Democratic Union (UDU) and Ahmed Brahim for Ettajdid (former communist party), who distinguishes himself from the other candidates by refusing to be just an ‘extra’ to give a sheen of “democracy”.For the first time in Tunisia, the four candidates to the presidency benefited from one hour of airtime to present their manifestos, live on the public channel Tunis 7 at 8.30pm. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, not surprisingly, went first, Ahmed Brahim for Ettajdid second. The draw that decided the order in which candidates would go ended up costing the communications minister his job. He was sacked on the spot for not pulling the ball for the head of state from his pocket discreetly enough. Two days after the launch of the campaign by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Ahmed Brahim was due to give his inaugural speech at 8.30pm on 13 October. Then at 5.30pm, the candidate’s campaign committee received a call informing the party that the speech was being broadcast at that moment on the radio and that it would be broadcast on television at 6.20pm, two hours earlier than planned and without any explanation. Even if Ahmed Brahim’s 38-minute speech had been broadcast uncut, the change in timeslot would constitute a serious failure in the principle of fairness between the different candidates, since the others had their broadcast schedules untouched. Moreover, the immensely detailed constraints imposed on the candidates in reading their speech and the way in which the technicians on Tunis 7 filmed Brahim, the Ettajdid candidate, repeatedly zooming in and out from all directions, would have been enough to discourage even the most ardent supporter. to go further Help by sharing this information Forum on Information and Democracy 250 recommendations on how to stop “infodemics” October 23, 2009 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Election campaign impossible for opposition media November 11, 2020 Find out more Tunisia : RSF asks Tunisian president’s office to respect journalists Chronology of harassment of media and journalists in the past few weeks:- 15 August 2009: the authorities take control of the journalists’ trade union, putting at its head Jamal Karmawi, adviser to the secretary general of the ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, (see: http://www.rsf.org/Government-supporters-seize.html). The former secretary general, Neji Bghouri, was not allowed to lodge a complaint in a bid to have this bogus election cancelled. He was banned access to the union’s premises, on 9 September.- 28 September: Three journalists Slim Boukhdhir, Mahmoud al-Zouadi and Mohamed Maali, were prevented from entering Tunis Carthage airport, where they had arrived to meet a colleague Naziha Rajiba, editor of the newspaper Kalima and secretary general of the Tunisian press freedom observatory.- 29 September: Hamma Hammami, former editor of the banned newspaper Alternatives and spokesman for the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party, was physically assaulted on arrival at the airport after giving interviews to al-Jazeera and France 24, in which he called the elections a “farce” (see: http://www.rsf.org/Opposition-leader-who-gave-TV.html). Hamma Hammami tried to lay a complaint for assault against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for grievous bodily harm but the chief prosecutor refused to accept it. – 1st October: the authorities ban distribution of “The Regent of Carthage” by French journalists Nicolas Beau and Catherine Graciet, after losing a case before a court in Paris calling for the book to be banned. “The day I realised Tunisia is not longer a land of liberty” by M. Bouebdelli is also banned.- 5 October: Moaz Al-Bey, correspondent for Radio Kalima and the newspaper al-Maouqif in Sfax, 270 km south of Tunis, is physically assaulted by plainclothes police officers. His journalistic equipment is destroyed or confiscated.- 10 October: Hamma Hammami is refused the right to leave Tunisia to take part in a conference about Tunisia at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.- 10 October (evening): police seize issue no 149 of the newspaper al-Tariq al-Jadid (the New Path) at the printers, for “violating election law”. The newspaper distributed by the Ettajdid party which is putting up a presidential candidate (Ahmed Brahim), was due to be distributed from 11 October, date of the opening of election campaign. – 11 October: expulsion of Italian journalist Manuela Gumucio, head of the Observatorio de Medios (Media Observatory), in Tunisia to offer training in the framework of a media-monitoring project organised by Sihem Ben Sedrine.- 14 October: M. Bouabdelli is the target of threats on the news website www.bilmakchouf.org, which is pro-regime.- 15 October: Zouheir Makhlouf, correspondent for the website al-Sabil online, was arrested while reporting on living conditions for residents of Nabeul, 63 km south-east of Tunis). He is accused of “harassment” for posting news on Facebook. He was then taken to a prison 20 km north of Tunis. His trial is due to held on 3 November. He began a hunger strike on 22 October.- 20 October: Lawyer Radhia Nasrowi is banned from leaving Tunisia, officially because of proceedings against her. Unofficially, it followed statements she made to al-Hiwar Ettounsi television and remarks by her husband on al-Jazzera and France 24.- 20 October: Florence Beaugé, journalist on French daily Le Monde, is prevented from entering Tunisia for “always showing evident ill-will towards Tunisia and being systematically hostile”, according to an official source contacted by AFP.- 22 October: Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik is harassed over articles he wrote for le Nouvel Observateur and the website Médiapart.- 22 October: Journalists and opposition figures trying to show solidarity with Zouheir Makhlouf prevented from meeting his wife at their home. – 22 October: police raid the premises of a Tunis radio station, broadcasting on web Radio 6, where journalists have been rallying since 17 October to condemn the state media monopoly and the absence of free expression in the run-up to elections. Receive email alerts News Follow the news on Tunisialast_img read more