The Knight Family Legacy – One Family’s Story by Marilyn R. Hill-Sutton

Title: The Knight Family Legacy – One Family’s Story

Author: Marilyn R. Hill-Sutton

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc

Date: 2010

The Knight Family Legacy is an in-depth study of the world of a plantation owner and mulatto progeny in dispute with his white heirs as they fight over the legality of their benefactor’s last will and testament.  Filled with documents, transcripts, and historical records of the time, Hill-Sutton’s book is an interesting study into an unprecedented court battle between white and black heirs.

Major Knight, a decorated civil war veteran and attorney fathered several children with Violet a slave on his property. Knight’s siblings end up locked in a court battle over the fact that Knight bequeathed his entire estate to his former slave now emancipated children.  This was unprecedented as many anti-miscegenation laws were coming to fruition in the deep south out of a fear of the black majority rising up and assuming political and economic control of what was firmly clutched in the fists of white upper middle class society of the time. In order to quash the rising tide of  white fear and to promote a ‘healing’ of sorts, the lands that were previously awarded to or held by blacks under Lincoln were taken back under Johnson. Jim Crow laws and apartheid were alive and well when Major Knight died and left his estate to his black children instead of his white siblings. Perhaps what is of even more interestin this book is that Knight’s mulatto son Jacob (Jake) fought on behalf of his mother and siblings to champion his father’s final wishes.

Hill-Sutton has amassed page after page of documentation to reveal what transpired both in the life of Maj. John Knight, Jr. as well as during the fight between his children for their inheritance. While her depth of research is to be commended it was wished by this reader that more of the story telling of events would have occurred and less enumeration of price of buggies and saddles.  These are all of great interest from a historical perspective but a deeper connection to the man and his love for Violet and the children or his sense of guilt for their circumstances would have benefited the reading of the lengthy tomb.

The countless documents and the transcriptions of the court documents paint a stark picture of the realities for white and black alike during reconstruction and post reconstruction in the south. This book will prove to be an invaluable resource for Pike County, GA researchers. The Knight Family Legacy’s exhaustive study into one family’s interwoven connections will hopefully pave the way for many others to come as researchers try to unravel the cross section of multiracial family connections in the post Civil War south.

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