I have written extensively about Earl Ijames’s mishandling of evidence related to the presence of black southerners (free and enslaved) in Confederate armies, but it is truly disturbing to learn that a historian such as Henry L. Gates endorses his shoddy research. You can find the following in Gates’s book, Lincoln on Race and Slavery:
pp.xxxviii-xxxix “The pioneering research of Earl Ijames reveals that some slaves bore arms, and some free Negroes in the South actually enlisted and fought in the Confederate Army, as Frederick Douglass as early as 1861 warned Lincoln they would do, in an attempt to persuade Lincoln to authorize the use of black men as soldiers.”
And the subsequent footnote, p.lxvi n13. “Earl L. Ijames, correspondence, November 17, 2008; … Ijames, the curator of the North Carolina Museum of History, says that, among others, the Fortieth Regiment of North Carolina Troops, Company D, included several free black men who enlisted voluntarily and fought with guns in combat against the North. His book Colored Confederates is forthcoming.”
First, it is important to acknowledge that Ijames has done nothing that would count as serious research on this subject. In 15 years of study he has not published a single peer-reviewed article and there is no evidence of a forthcoming book on the subject. I suspect that Gates first made contact with Ijames during the filming of his recent PBS documentary “Looking for Lincoln.” One episode includes a ceremony sponsored by the SCV honoring Weary Clyburn as a Confederate soldier, which I am unable to pin down. Ijames spoke at this ceremony, though he has waffled on drawing any firm conclusions about Clyburn’s status.
Ijames is scheduled to give a talk this coming Wednesday [Aug. 18] at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is unfortunate that a branch of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, which is also Ijames’s employer, would allow him to speak on this subject. No doubt, his talk will follow the same line as a recent presentation which was recorded and can be accessed here. [Click here for an outline of this talk.]