Davis Knight was a Navy Veteran from the state of Mississippi who married Junie Lee Spradley on April 18, 1946, in Mississippi. He was great grandson of Newton Knight and Rachel Knight.
He was born in Stringer, Jasper County, Mississippi in 1925.
The state invalidated the marriage and claimed that Davis violated the law of cohabitation which stated, “marriage or cohabitation between white persons and those with one-eighth or more Negro or Mongolian blood”.
Mr. Davis Knight initially stated his wife that he was a white, his records from the Navy also indicated that he was white, however later, the state investigated and set out to prove that he was black.
The story goes back towards the end of the civil war, when a racially mixed light-skinned Rachel Knight helped Newton Knight after his desertion from the Army during the American Civil War. The story of Newton, Rachel and Davis Knight has been portrayed in 2016 American movie, Free State of John. The movie portrays the setting of the courthouse debate where Davis is seen to have alongside his wife awaiting court verdict.
The whole case was in regards to David Knight’s race, which would have depend on Rachel’s race. There were witnesses to the case, one of which was 89 years old white man who testified that Rachel lived in his father’s plantation and she was a known Negro.
Two years after his marriage, on December 18, 1948, Davis Knight was considered as black and was sentenced to five years in prison for marrying a white girl outside of his race. He appealed against the decision, however almost a year later, supreme court reversed his sentence. The court claimed that there was not enough evidence to prove that his great grand mother, Rachel was fully black, which would question he was at least one-eighth Black.
Although the supreme court overturned the previous decision, many white people from Mississippi protested. The law existed at least for next two decades.
Later Davis Knight divorced Junie and was said to be moved to Texas where he married an older woman. He died at the age of 34 drowning during a fishing trip.
The Movie Free State of Jones
The 2016 movie Free state of Jones is inspired by life story of Davis Jones and his great grandfather Newton Knight and his great grandmother Rachel Knight. Matthew McConaughey has played the role of Newton Knight. Meanwhile Brian Lee Franklin has portrayed Davis Knight in the movie.
Newton Knight was married to Serena Turner Knight in 1858. He has been a controversial figure as he and his allies made a mixed race pact. His son claims that Newton Knight never owned any slaves.