Newton Knight and the Legend of the Free State of Jones Lesson Plan

Karla Smith


Mississippi’s heritage is rich in folklore that few regions throughout the country can rival, and the story of Newton Knight and the Free State of Jones is no exception. During the American Civil War many Mississippians of Jones County defied the state’s secession from the Union and, under the leadership of Newton Knight, made guerrilla warfare against the Confederacy. The tale of the “Free State of Jones” and Newton Knight is one of courage, conviction, and … legend.


Mississippi History

  • MS.6 - Recognize the role of Mississippi during the Civil War and evaluate the effects of Reconstruction within the state.


Grades 7 through 12



The students will:

  • Determine supporting details for generalizations.
  • Compose an essay.


The teacher will ask the students the following questions:

What is a legend?
(After volunteers suggest a definition, ask a student to read the definition from the dictionary to further define the term)

Can you name some Mississippi legends?
(Suggestions can be listed on the board. Add Newton Knight to the list if not suggested by the students.)

After adding Newton Knight’s name on the list of Mississippi legends, the teacher will tell the students that over the next several days they will learn about Newton Knight, a Mississippi legend.


Students may work alone or with a partner to complete the generalizations assignment listed below. The students can copy the five generalizations onto a sheet of notebook paper, or the teacher can duplicate the generalizations for the students. You may want to remind students that generalizations are broad statements that represent main ideas about important events.

The students should use the Mississippi History Now article to locate at least three to four details that support the accuracy of the generalizations listed below. The students will record their answers as they read the Mississippi History Now article. After the students have completed the assignment, allow student volunteers to share their answers. The teacher will facilitate a class discussion about the article by incorporating the student responses. A whiteboard can be used to record student responses which will allow the class to check their answers.


  1. Not all Mississippians supported secession from the Union.
  2. Civilians were greatly affected by the Civil War.
  3. Anyone who defied the Confederacy was harshly punished.
  4. The Civil War is referred to as “A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”
  5. Newton Knight stood up for what he believed was just and fair, no matter what others thought.

Remind the students that the inscription on Newton Knight’s tombstone reads “He Lived for Others.” Tell the students that they are to write a two- to three-paragraph essay titled “Newton Knight: He Lived for Others.” Their essay should focus on how Newton Knight served others. The students can work alone on this assignment, or they can work with a partner to complete the assignment. If students work alone, allow them to share their essays with their classmates in groups of four. Each group should select its best essay to read to the class.


The teacher can allow the best essay from each group to be read to the class. If the students completed the essay individually, upon completion of the reading of the essays, the teacher can lead a class discussion on how Newton Knight lived his life for others.


  • Comprehension of generalizations
  • Essays
  • Participation in class discussion


  • Create a timeline that includes the major events in the life of Newton Knight.
  • Create a journal entry for Newton Knight, or for one of the members of the Knight Company.
  • Create a newspaper article about the guerrilla war efforts of Newton Knight and/or the events that led up to the formation of the Knight Company.
  • Create a political cartoon about the “Free State of Jones” or the Knight Company.

Follow up this lesson with other Mississippi History Now lesson plans on the Civil War. These can be found by searching under the theme “Civil War & Reconstruction”.