Today is Weary Clyburn’s Big Day

Here is another news item concerning the commemoration of Weary Clyburn which will be held today in Monroe, North Carolina.  I am not going to comment extensively as the story is well known to my readers, but here are a few highlights.

Earl L. ljames, who is a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History and who apparently used to be employed at the North Carolina Department of Archives and History believes that, “His is a hero’s service…. Him serving is really an incredible story.”  By the way if ljames and members of the SCV and UDC are truly interested in honoring the service of North Carolina’s slaves than why not recognize the 5,000 plus that joined the Union army which has been documented extensively by Richard M. Reid in his new book, Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina’s Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

ljames goes on to suggest that “…this whole event vicariously honors the thousands of ‘colored Confederates’ who served in various capacities and never had a voice to express it.”  For someone associated with a museum, and who one assumes has some credentials in the field, this is truly an irresponsible statement.  Even more ridiculous is the claim that Weary Clyburn and the son of the man who owned him were “best friends”, which is “not an uncommon story.”  What does “uncommon” actually mean in this context and what does the concept of friendship mean between slave and slaveowner?

I don’t have the patience to go on.  All I can say is that we can be thankful that ljames no longer works at the NCDAH.  Apparently, Clyburn’s descendants will hold a news conference following the celebration.  I will keep you posted.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

13 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Jul 25, 2008 @ 11:16

    Mr. Ijames, — I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Your work with USCT organizations sounds very interesting. I am the first to admit that some of my characterizations of your role in the research and commemoration of Weary Clyburn were a bit aggressive and I welcome your feedback re: specific points of disagreement if you are so inclined. Just in case you were not award this series of posts began here:

  • Earl L. Ijames Jul 25, 2008 @ 10:56

    Kevin, et als., this blogs is the typical knee-jerk, reactionary post of the truly uneducated. I usually don’t blog, but one of my colleagues forwarded this link, among others, and my phone and e-mail has been blowing up!
    I’ve been researching Colored Confederates in NC since 1994. Those who really research in our Archives knows that we have the most extensive and third oldest state archives in the nation, and that “pulling records” is the very least of our duties. I am an Historian who actually taught as an undergrad at NCSU and has served as an Archivist for the last fourteen (14) years, as well as seventh (7th) generation North Carolinian. I might know a little something about the Tar Heel State! For those Historians who are truly serious about research in NC, they know who to contact.
    As for the “KL-
    ‘By the way if ljames and members of the SCV and UDC are truly interested in honoring the service of North Carolina’s slaves than why not recognize the 5,000 plus that joined the Union army…’
    I’ve participated in the USCT Symposium since it’s inception, with such events as a genealogy seminar (tracing the roots of Parker D. Robbins, USCT for study). I’m one of the foremost black genealogists in the state, having conducted actual seminars for black and white genealogists. I’ve served as a panelist on the Colored Confederate- Myth or Reality Seminar, introducing the subject in-depth with detail citations to many “scholars”. This past Feb’y, 07, I conducted a teacher workshop, some of whom had advanced degrees. This is not the first workshop that I’ve conducted in my eighteen (18) year career with the Department of Cultural Resources, which includes our esteemed State Archives and Museum of History!
    Lastly, I just finished heading up a project digitization the descriptive rolls of our state’s USCT from microfilm. We’ll present this at next year’s USCT V Conference to be held at East Carolina University in Feb’y, 2009. We have a call for papers. Please submit one and make your plans to attend. I’ve already met with Fort Fisher Historic Site to incorporate this into the re-enactments both in Wilmington and Raleigh- yes, Raleigh. While you were blogging, I’ve rediscovered nearly two dozen USCT graves here in Raleigh, some with May, 1865 death dates. We’re in the process of organizing a Company of USCT to depict the garrison of Raleigh, April-Oct’r, 1865. Well, gotta get back to real work!



    Earl L. Ijames, Curator
    N.C. Museum of History
    5 Edenton Street
    Raleigh, NC 27699-4650
    (tel) 919.807.7961
    (fax) 919.715.6628

  • Kevin Levin Jul 18, 2008 @ 14:55

    Andrew, — Nice to hear from you and I hope you are doing well. Let me emphasize that I am not at all interested in how others see him apart from this particular issue. I’ve never met the man.

    That said, it is not true that “everyone” who knows of Mr. Ijames “thinks pretty highly of him”. I can say this because I’ve received a couple of private emails from people who are very concerned about the statements he has made on this issue. As to his academic credentials I am willing to wager that if the Americanists at NC State were to read these stories they would be appalled and just a little embarrassed. Thanks again.

  • Andrew Duppstadt Jul 18, 2008 @ 14:39

    Just a little background on Earl Ijames (since I work in the same Department, but different Division, than he does). He himself is an African-American, and holds a BA in History from NC State University with minors in African-American Studies and English. I’ve never met him personally, but everyone I know who has worked with him thinks pretty highly of him. Wish I could tell you more, but that’s about all I could find. My colleague over at Whig Hill may know him better.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 18, 2008 @ 12:40

    Mr. Smith, — Thanks for the kind words and for the link.

    Richard, –I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. ljames has proven helpful in your quest for records concerning NC Union soldiers, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. His job is to pull records for historians such as yourself, but perhaps given his limited historical training (BA in History) perhaps he should refrain from interpretation. Good luck with your research and I assume you are familiar with Reid’s new book on the subject which I referenced in the body of the post.

  • Richard Jul 18, 2008 @ 12:34

    In response to honoring Union Soldiers from NC I hope my state will one day honor these men, both black and white. I know I will continue to do so in my own small way. Maybe someday their stories will be told.

  • Richard Jul 18, 2008 @ 12:27

    Its funny how small the world is. I have been visiting the NC archives for the past few years and have spoken with Mr. Ijames. I asked him questions about black confederates when I read about the subject on your blog. My Southern education was devoid of any blacks on the battlefield. Having grown up in the South this seems like a strange topic to me. I have never heard anyone talk about it.
    My interest is in NC Union soldiers and Mr. Ijames and others have been helpful in that quest.

  • TF Smith Jul 18, 2008 @ 12:16

    Dear Mr. Levin –

    First off, wonderful site; it is an amazing resource for teaching and simply a great read.

    Here’s something you may be unaware of, and frankly, given the status and history of organization supporting it, I find pretty appalling. Check the final sentence:

    Beyond that, the link to “Resources” offers some very interesting examples of how historical events are memorialized.

  • border Jul 18, 2008 @ 10:33

    I have heard of USCT reenactors participating in ceremonies at Confederate POW cemeteries (up north) and SCV/UDC members helping to clean up old slave cemeteries.

    That is all well and good…but my point was- that is not the purpose of their organizations.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 18, 2008 @ 9:00

    Thanks again border as I can always count on you for a good laugh. And here I thought that the SCV and UDC were interested in remembering and honoring the “service” of their slaves. I guess that means only those in their little fantasy world that remained “best friends” with their master’s families and not the 200,000 that served in the Union army and which are sufficiently documented.

    In other words, what you really mean to say is that all of this is indeed about assuaging the emotions of those in the SCV and UDC.

  • border Jul 18, 2008 @ 8:48

    “By the way if ljames and members of the SCV and UDC are truly interested in honoring the service of North Carolina’s slaves than why not recognize the 5,000 plus that joined the Union army…”



    Did you have some loco weed in your breakfast cereal this morning?

    Why would the SCV and UDC need to honor those that served in the Federal army?

    Do any ‘Sons of the USCT’ honor Confederates?

    You do realize that it was those in the Federal army who were trying to kill the ancestors of those in the SCV and UDC…don’t you???

  • Kevin Levin Jul 18, 2008 @ 7:53

    Thanks for the list Toby. The story of black Confederates violates a number of points on your list and beyond.

  • toby Jul 18, 2008 @ 7:15

    Thanks for this website, Kevin … I dip into it every few days and always find something of interest.

    I find the “Black Confederate” phenomenon to be both irritating and disturbing. One one level it is not bad to feel those emotions occasionally, but this is so retrograde to a decent understanding of the Civil War, that it is worth struggling against, at the risk of offending some.

    I offer the 7 warning signs of bogus history which I found elsewhere on the web. The “Black Confederate research” which is addressed to the public rather than to the historical profession, and which is based on scanty and questionable evidence, seems an excellent example of bogus history. The signs suit the works of those like Thomas Dilorenzo as well:

    The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus History

    1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, for pay.

    2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.

    3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.

    4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.

    5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.

    6. The author has worked in isolation.

    7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation; heroes become villains, or great conspiracies are often invoked.

    Credit to “Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub” at:

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