Earl Ijames Responds

I do not make it a practice of posting emails on this site, but given the circumstances I feel this is justified.  Earlier today Earl Ijames responded to my request for copies of his public presentation on black Confederates, all of which are part of the public record.  Mr. Ijames responded with his professional email address, which makes it subject to third party review.  I am not surprised that he refused my request, but I was disappointed by his tone and personal insults.  Ijames is an employee of the North Carolina Museum of History, which is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, a state agency.  That makes him a public servant.  It goes without saying that the following email reflects poorly on both the North Carolina Museum of History and Office of Archives and History.  Regardless of Mr. Ijames’s personal feelings, I have every right to question and comment on information shared on publicly accessible websites.  Today he had a chance to respond and put to rest a number of questions that have been raised about his research. He chose not to.

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your request.

However, please don’t intimate as if we’re strangers.

You obviously assume yet another ignorant and incorrect posture by inferring that my research was done while serving as an Archivist, and not just an employee “who only pulls records” as you conveniently misrepresent in your blog.  What’s more, I have shared with you already the little research that was done while on state time, that is confirming the service of Pvt. John Venable (Colored), Co. H, 21st Regt. N.C.S.T., whom you and unnamed associates continue to dishonor.  Yet, you bumble and stumble with Venable trying to explain away his courage and service.  You definitely couldn’t handle the weight and the truth of the depth and breadth of service of the Colored Confederates of our great State.

As for my private research supported on my on dime in my “copious” spare time… “Sir, You Will Get No Troops from North Carolina!”

On the other hand, I have offered to you on numerous occasions to debate any time any where, again on my dime.  I’ll re-iterate that offer to you to put your money where your loose lips leak erroneous information.  Please come to the Savannah State University and the Telfair Museum in that fine southern city next week for real presentation “Colored Confederates and United States Colored Troops” as part of their Annual Black History Month celebrations.  Or if you want to save gas, then please visit the Chatham County (of NC) Historical Society on the last Sunday of Black History Month for a similar program with a Chatham County, NC flair.  At either event, you’ll be my special guest, seated front and center.

If you don’t show, then we can conclude that you’re not as serious of a student of history as you misrepresent yourself to be.  And therefore, I must admonish you to discontinue capitalizing on my name and promoting your website business by defamation.

The offer still stands, or you can continue to cowardly post erroneous and slanderous information while you suffer from cabin fever in the frozen tundra of your “research”.

What’s more, you should be ashamed at the dishonor and discredit that you (et als) intend for Weary Clyburn, Co. E, 12th S.C. Volunteers, his daughter, and family.  You might be hearing from their lawyer.

You must be also warned that if you continue the rants, then you risk exposing yourself as a buffoon.

Once you dig out of your blizzard, please feel free to make an appointment with me at the North Carolina Museum of History.  Many people travel from states farther than northern Virginia to share in our history that’s been my life’s work.  Just the last fifteen years on my resume is more than you’ll accomplish over the course of your career!  I just hope that you haven’t damaged too many of those captive classrooms with students in your politically correct curriculum.

I hope to see you soon.  Thank you again.



Civil War Memory has moved to Substack! Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe below.

22 comments… add one
  • terry Mar 14, 2013 @ 8:54

    Wow, stumbled onto this blog by accident, and was greatly amused at the attack on Earl Ijames. Not one bit surprised though. Some who cannot accept Black Confederates must denigrate those who do, and for the silliest reasons.

    Thank you Mr. Ijames for confirming the service of Pvt. John Venable (Colored), Co. H, 21st Regt. N.C.S.T., whom apparently this blog and unnamed associates continue to dishonor.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 14, 2013 @ 9:59

      You apparently have not consulted the relevant records. Venable was not a soldier. Even Ijames, at times, acknowledged this. I suggest reading the following post on John Venable.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Feb 14, 2010 @ 17:43

    Sounds to me as if Earl Ijames has challenged Kevin Levin to a duel, so to speak.

    Now, by the code duello, Mr. Levin has choice of weapons. I assume he'd rather conduct the contest on the written page/screen/blog, where all of us can see the result, not some hand-picked venue chosen by Mr. Ijames. And I think that's appropriate. I'm perfectly willing to offer Civil Warriors as a field of honor where this can happen, so that historians can judge the result.

    So, Mr. Ijames, it's up to you. Are you going to make your case? Are you willing to conduct yourself according to the rules of scholarship?

    Remember what you said, Mr. Ijames: ” I’ll re-iterate that offer to you to put your money where your loose lips leak erroneous information…. If you don’t show, then we can conclude that you’re not as serious of a student of history as you misrepresent yourself to be.”

    I'd hate to see those words come back to haunt you. But it's now a matter of public record. It's up to you whether you'll be as good as your word.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 14, 2010 @ 17:56

      I am willing to allow Mr. Ijames the opportunity to compose a finished essay (endnotes and sources included) on Weary Clyburn or John Venable. He can post it here if he feels comfortable or at Civil Warriors. That way we can have a meaningful discussion about his findings and we can do so in a professional manner. I should point out that I offered my site as a venue back in 2008, but was ignored. Perhaps we can make this happen. Thanks Brooks.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Feb 14, 2010 @ 6:14

    “Just the last fifteen years on my resume is more than you’ll accomplish over the course of your career! I just hope that you haven’t damaged too many of those captive classrooms with students in your politically correct curriculum.”

    Yawn. Mr. Ijames must be terribly insecure.

    The fact that he so quickly resorts to insults suggests that he's afraid he can't prevail on the facts. Let him commit his findings to paper, like a real scholar, and let's go from there. Surely, if he really has you dead to rights, he'd be willing to do that.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 14, 2010 @ 10:32

      I have no idea what that resume includes. As far as I can tell it does not include one publication on this or any other subject.

  • John Hennessy Feb 14, 2010 @ 0:40

    As one who gives lots of talks, and has published a bit too, I can say that giving talks is by comparison breezy. Your words might rattle around in people's brains for fifteen minutes, then reduce to a vague memory. If a year later someone even remembers that you spoke, that's good; if they actually remember some point you made, then that's remarkable. If you make an error, likely no one will catch it or remember. More over, as politicians prove on a regular basis, the Q&A that accompanies a talk can be made as malleable as the speaker wants it to be–diverting, converting, distracting when need be. These are reasons why some historians (I use that word charitably) speak rather than write. Writing is a whole different ballgame–laying yourself out there (figuratively) for extended examination and debate among third parties, where you, the writer, have no control over the conversation. Speakers also have the great advantage of having almost total control over who hears their message; relatively few of us dare to go before audiences we know will be hostile to what we have to say, but rather we gravitate to where we know our words will be welcome (no criticism there–that's human nature). I admire great speakers, but true impact in history comes only through writing–putting new ideas and analysis out there for that potential pummeling, with no control over WHO reads what you write. People who refuse to subject their work to that scrutiny usually make that choice for a reason. Or, perhaps, they can't write, in which case they are likely doing us all a favor.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 14, 2010 @ 1:28

      Thanks for the comment, John, and I couldn't agree more with you have said. Serious historians usually use presentations to fine tune their analysis in preparation for publication. I can't speculate as to why Ijames has not published. What I do know is that his failure to publish is problematic and is reason to question any authority he may claim for himself.

  • Matthew Donnelly Feb 13, 2010 @ 14:45

    Wise choice to (at least try to) avoid being drawn into a useless argument with this guy, Kevin. If you have a vastly different interpretation of history than what's accepted and aren't willing to REALLY put the theory and your evidence out there for public consumption and debate, then it stops being real research and becomes a glorified ego boost.
    I'm listening to a lecture series by Gary Gallagher about the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia and he addresses/dismisses the black Confederate soldier myth with a single killing word – “Weird”

    • Kevin Levin Feb 13, 2010 @ 14:52

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment and I hope you enjoy the Gallagher lectures. Actually, when you get down to it there is no disagreement between myself and Mr. Ijames over interpretation. I say this because as far as I can tell he has never published an interpretation/analysis of the subject. In other words, he doesn't have an interpretation of the subject that matters to the broader historical community. As you can see his resorting to personal insult reflects an inability/unwillingness to present his “research” in a way that can be publicly discussed and scrutinized.

  • Jonathan Dresner Feb 13, 2010 @ 4:17

    Shouldn't that be “cowardlyly”?

    I wonder if he's got a motive other than shoddy research to claim that his work on the subject was done “off the clock”: if he's developing or intending to produce any for-profit or independent income source from the information, he may be concerned about protecting his intellectual property claims.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:33

      Hi Jonathan. Nice to hear from you. I am going to go through the process of sending a letter to the people in charge requesting the materials, but I am not sure what will come of it. As for the question of when the research was done I will leave to others. My concern is with his public presentation on this subject. Thanks.

  • davidwoodbury Feb 13, 2010 @ 3:17

    Kevin — in one single email from your correspondent, the entire “black Confederate” charade is exposed. There is no “research” to share, because the whole notion is a house of cards built on wishful thinking and the erasure of lines between “service” and “slavery” (from someone who doesn't know the difference between “infer” and “imply”). Dare to ASK for that research, and the response is anger and faux indignation. He even played the “lawyer” card!! That was hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:31

      The whole idea that I debate him publicly and/or visit him in the archives is also absurd. Responsible historians publish their findings in peer reviewed journals and engage in open dialog. As I stated before, it looks like Mr. Ijames doesn't understand the difference between debate and personal attack. I also find it funny that he would compare our “resumes”. As far as I can tell Mr. Ijames has never published anything related to this research in 15 years nor can I find anything else by this individual. You would think that at some point he would publish given his claim that black Confederates have been “blotted” out of the history. How about submitting something to the North Carolina Historical Review. I've been researching one subject for the past 5 years and I have managed to publish a number of essays and book chapters. Admittedly, it's not much, but my work is out there for public consumption and it is open to criticism and debate. That's what historians do. Can you imagine if I responded to a critic by inviting him to one of my presentations or my home to discuss the matter. Rather, I would share references to published work and continue the discussion as best as I can.

      I agree David. Mr. Ijames has exposed himself for the fraud that he is.

  • Michaela Feb 13, 2010 @ 2:24

    Here some questions for historical accuracy: which of the honorable military institutes did any of those thousands of black “Confederate” soldiers attend? Where are those school records? And if they didn't attend any why not? At least if you want to fight to defend your own State and consequently to uphold slavery to keep your own people in bondage you don't want to do it just with the knowledge of a farm hand (note: I am not using the term “slave” because a slave by definition would of course not be free to enter the position of a soldier by his own free will). Also, why are there so few black “Confederate” generals? What kind of hierarchy was commonly seen in those great military schools such as VMI and West Point? What was the chance for example for a farm hand to a white slave owner to make it up through the ranks? Or for the son of a black doctor? Also, were black “Confederate” soldiers paid as much as white ones? Were they given the same honors for their services at the time? And did black “Confederate” soldiers have black slaves serving them or did they have white servants?

    I hope these are not too many questions, but I studied American history in the “socialist” German school system. Alas, there they never taught me about black “Confederate” soldiers.

  • allanmack Feb 13, 2010 @ 1:45

    Kevin, as they say, when you are taking flak, you know you are over the target. You are definitely on to something here.

  • Will Hickox Feb 12, 2010 @ 23:23

    “Now that I've insulted you, I demand that you drive to another state and attend my event. Come on, I dare ya! Otherwise, you're not a serious historian.”

    Who's the buffoon??!

    • Kevin Levin Feb 12, 2010 @ 23:30

      In all of my posts I don't believe I once take a personal shot at Ijames. Part of the problem is that he was not trained specifically as a historian so he doesn't understand the role of argument as opposed to insult. In other words he interprets challenges to his research as a personal insult. That's unfortunate.

      • margaretdblough Feb 13, 2010 @ 0:25

        Kevin, Perhaps Mr. Ijames should take Harry Truman's advice to aides upset over crticism, “If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

        • Mike Radinsky Feb 15, 2010 @ 3:37

          Mr. Radinsky,

          You will please refrain from personal insults if you expect your comments to be approved. Thank you.

  • Corey Meyer Feb 12, 2010 @ 15:40

    I think I just heard the flapping of his credibility going out the window. Kevin, did you not post an image of a letter in reference to Mr. Clyburn’s status with the pension system in NC on your site. Did Mr. Ijames ever run into that document declaring Wary Clyburn a slave and not a soldier?


    • Kevin Levin Feb 13, 2010 @ 10:52

      I did indeed. It's amazing to me that Ijames is convinced that Venable was a soldier. Apparently, he can't even interpret his own evidence. That said, let me be clear. I did not conclude that Venable was not a soldiers. What I stated was that the available evidence does not show conclusively that Venable was a soldier. Perhaps Ijames has additional documentation that he is not sharing or that was not sent to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *