An Open Letter To Earl Ijames

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Update: Well, it doesn’t look like Mr. Ijames is willing to share his presentation with me.  He did, however, take the time to write me a lengthy letter in which he invited me to take part in one of his future presentations.  That’s very kind of him.  According to Mr. Ijames he has already shared all of the information he has on “Private Venable”, which is sufficient to accuse me, along with my “unnamed associates”, of “dishonoring” his memory.  I assume by “unnamed associates” he means his former colleagues at the NCDAH.  Unfortunately, it comes down to is his claim that the vast majority of the research for this presentation was done on his own personal time.  What is even more confusing is a string of attached emails between Ijames and a representative of UNC-TV that was included in his personal email to me.  Apparently, the two are under some mistaken belief that I based these posts on a recent interview with Ijames.  While I came across it on one of my searches I didn’t view it.  Finally, in addition to dishonoring the memory of Venable I am also being accused of dishonoring the memory of Weary Clyburn as well as his descendants.  Apparently, I may even be hearing from their lawyer.  No doubt I will be charged with doing history.  My next step will be to send a letter to the director of the NCDAH along with an attached copy of Ijames’s response to my request  I understand Ijames’s frustration.  He admitted in one of the emails that a Google search of his name lists this blog at the top of the list.  That said, this is no way for a public servant to respond to a request from the general public.  Well, that’s the latest. :D

To: Earl Ijames

cc: Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow [Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Office of Archives and History]

Subject: Black Confederates

Dear Mr. Ijames,

I am a high school history teacher and historian who specializes in Civil War history. My current research project focuses on the history of black soldiers in the Civil War.  I understand that over the past few years you have done extensive research on the service of black soldiers in the Confederate army and that you have presented your findings to the general public on numerous occasions.  Unfortunately, due to my location I am unable to attend these presentations.  However, I would like to request that you send me your Powerpoint presentation and/or copies of materials that have been used in your public programs.  I understand that your research was done while an employee at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History and that the requested items are part of the public record.  Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to reviewing your research.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Levin
Instructor of History and Department Chair
St. Anne’s – Belfield School
Charlottesville, Virginia

10 comments… add one

  • margaretdblough Feb 11, 2010

    Interesting. I don't know if what the North Carolina ethics rules/conflict of interest rules are, but I wonder if there is an issue with him making money from work he did on state time.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 11, 2010

      That's a separate issue entirely and one that I do not want to address in this thread. I am only interested in what he is presenting to the general public. Thanks for the comment.

      • margaretdblough Feb 12, 2010

        I understand.

  • Richard Feb 12, 2010

    If the above information were provided I would be curious how you would analyze it. Your methods. I would imagine it would not be unlike a criminal case I am currently working on. Gather information, understand the backgrounds and lifestyles of suspects, analyze said data and statements, present an argument in a fashion that can be understood, and then convince the jury. (I believe you call it peer review).

  • Scott Manning Feb 12, 2010

    Kevin, why the open letter? Open letters typically involve some sort of analysis or criticism. This letter simply asks for a copy of a PowerPoint. Do you think he will not share or has he already turned you down?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 12, 2010

      I should clarify that Mr. Ijames was emailed. I decided to post it based on his response to previous posts. We shall see. I've written numerous posts that offer detailed analysis of his research.

  • Ed Feb 12, 2010

    A PowerPoint presentation is not going to get you the information you desire. Slides are used to enhance what someone tells their audience. Besides his research material, you really need his speaker's notes, if he has any.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 12, 2010

      I hope this covers it: “…Powerpoint presentation and/or copies of materials that have been used in your public programs.” Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Richard Feb 12, 2010

    A court case, now that would be interesting. You could be sued for libel but then you would have to prove that that black confederates did not exist. To win the other side would have to prove that they do exist.

  • margaretdblough Feb 13, 2010

    Quite frankly, I don't even want to think of how my boss would react if I, or any employee of our agency, sent out a letter like that. His response reminds me of an old law school maxim: “If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you have the law, argue the law. If you have neither, pound the table.”

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