I was surprised to find a brief reference to this site over at Ann DeWitt’s black Confederate website (scroll down to bottom of page). I’ve written quite a bit about the interpretive problems on her site as well as the complete lack of any reference to her qualifications to discuss this subject given her requests for money and hopes that the site will eventually be used by teachers and students. This is her own understanding of her qualifications:
I believe being an American Citizen is credibility enough to create a website with links to the sources of Civil War documents and historian accounts. Who owns American History? We, The People.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what this vague reference is supposed to mean and it is apparent to me that Ms. DeWitt will continue to ignore legitimate questions about the content of her site that I have posted as well as others. That’s fine. I will continue to monitor the site and continue to point out the obvious problems. Yes, everyone has the right to contribute to the Web, but responsibility for what you choose to post follows.
I have referenced Ann DeWitt’s new black Confederate website on a few occasions, but at this point we know very little about her. The website is filled with misinformation and vague references that can be found on the many websites that purport to educate. In the case of Ms. DeWitt, she hopes to eventually turn this site into a resource for teachers and students: “The goal is to have a comprehensive site by April 2011 for students and teachers – in time to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War from April 2011 to April 2015. This research is for our youth.” I am horrified by such a plan. I’ve been unable to track down any information about this woman or the website itself. [Note: I now understand why Richard Williams got so upset about my last post re: DeWitt. He apparently sent her a complimentary copy of his book, which is now being advertised on the site. Update: Williams responds to this post here. I am more than happy to retract whatever is assumed to be implicit in my referencing of the presence of his book on DeWitt's site.]
Individuals who set up websites claiming to be legitimate historical resources for teachers and students have a responsibility to share their credentials. In short, the public has a right to know who you are, including your professional background and education. Whether you agree or disagree with what I write on this site you can find everything there is to know about my qualifications by clicking on my resume. You don’t need to be impressed with anything that I’ve done over the past ten years, but it is there for your consideration. One of the most important things that we must teach our students is how to judge Online information. If you do nothing else in this regard in your classroom this year at least reinforce the necessity of questioning the authorship of websites. Failure to do so renders all sites and the information contained therein equal. I can’t tell you how many people comment on this site by doing little more than parroting what they read elsewhere. Then when you question their information they get defensive and scold you for daring to disagree or responding in a skeptical manner.
As I’ve said, at this point I have been unable to locate any information about Ann DeWitt. This is nothing new in the Online world of black Confederates as most of these sites are set up by folks who have absolutely no experience working in anything close to the field of historical research or digital history.
I don’t have much sympathy for adults who buy into the black Confederate meme. In the end, it is simply a reflection of their gullibility, lack of basic historical knowledge relating to the Civil War and an inability to properly interpret primary sources. On the other hand and as a teacher, I am disgusted when children are brought into the picture. They become the victims of the stupidity of others. Consider this little gem of a book, titled, Entangled in Freedom: A Civil War Novel, which is slated for release in January 2011. The book is authored by Kevin M. Weeks, who is known for The Street Life Series. Here is a short description:
Entangled in Freedom, the first novel in this young adult fiction book series, takes a closer look at the life experiences of African-Americans in the Deep South during the War Between the States. Young adult readers follow main character Isaac Green through the dirt roads of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia to Cumberland Gap where Isaac serves with the 42nd Regiment Georgia Volunteers C.S.A. Historical accounts are derived from 19th century official government records as well as real life family narratives of co-author, Ann DeWitt.
These two names should ring a bell. Not too long ago I shared a new website on black Confederates that was created by Ann DeWitt. It’s unfortunate that Ms. DeWitt did not take proper care of her family’s narrative. Sometimes simply repeating family stories does not honor the memory of one’s ancestors, especially if those stories are inaccurate.