One of the reasons why it is important for serious historians to publish in peer-reviewed journals is that it provides the community with stable reference points. Scholarly publications are intended to add to our knowledge of the past by providing rich interpretation along with supporting documents that can be verified. In this setting interpretation can be challenged and revised if necessary. I find it troubling that in 15 years Mr. Ijames has yet to publish, but still considers himself to be an expert on the subject of “Colored Confederates” and is considered to be an expert by various constituencies. No doubt, Mr. Ijames is aware that free and enslaved blacks functioned in various capacities in the Confederate army, but what I am interested in are his vague claims about those that supposedly served as soldiers. His claims in various forums, including this one, are impossible to pin down which raises more questions than answers. Consider his public statements about Weary Clyburn, who was the subject of a series of posts I did in 2008. The SCV honored Clyburn with a headstone that designated him as a soldier in the Confederate army. Mr. Ijames took part in the SCV’s public and well publicized ceremony for Clyburn, which you can see in this short video clip:
It can be safely assumed that Ijames’s comments as well as his participation in this event implies that he believes Clyburn served as a soldier. Once he discovered my posts on the subject, along with commentary about his participation in the event, Ijames offered the following comment:
The term is “Colored Confederate”. I have always maintained that Weary Clyburn was ENSLAVED! He wasn’t even counted in the census, much less in a Confederate Regiment! You discount what he actually did, while hiding behind your rambling attacks on me!
So, we go from taking part in an event that commemorated Clyburn as a soldier in Co. E, 12th S.C. Volunteers to acknowledging that he was a slave. Finally, in yesterday’s response to my open letter, Ijames said the following:
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.
What could this possibly mean other than to imply that I am “dishonoring” a soldier? I should point out that there is nothing dishonorable about being a slave. It is their stories that give continued meaning to our lives and a nation that strives towards freedom and equality. There is also nothing dishonorable about speaking out when those in the historical community engage the past with such reckless abandon.
Mr. Ijames and a few others are wondering why I don’t accept his invitation to debate in some public forum. As I’ve already pointed out the idea itself is absurd, but how can I debate someone who doesn’t seem to have the basic facts of his own story straight?