The Free State of Jones is based on real events. in 1863, the real Newt Knight led actual a rebellion in James County. The first interracial marriage in this region was his open relationship with a slave and the resulting marriage after the end of the American civil war. Even after the settlement of the conflict between northern and Southern States, Knight stuck to his convictions on, fought against Klan activities and became together with his ‘band’ a shining, figure if also controversial. His son Thomas j. Knight wrote a (glorifying) report, where he among other things explained how his father defended farmers against greedy tax collectors.
Director Gary Ross (known for the tribute of panem – the hunger games) took up the story a sort of Robin Hood legend become quickly of Newt Knight and even the screenplay for his film.