12 February 2010

May I Ask Some Questions, Please?

**Update: See how some mislead: "I'm now aware that other blogs have also alerted their readers to Kevin's posting of Mr. Ijames's letter, and they see any effort to hold Mr. Ijames accountable for his words or to ask him to present his case as an attempt to silence him."

I think it is safe to assume that this comment is directed at this blog. How utterly false and revealing. Read my post below. I SPECIFICALLY said: "While I can understand why Kevin Levin might disagree with some of Mr. Ijames's conclusions and analysis and while I certainly have no problem with Mr. Levin writing about those disagreements . . ."

My criticism is not with Levin's disagreement or "holding Mr. Ijames accountable" as the comment falsely charges - my problem is Levin's rather transparent point of: 1.) Copying the letter to Mr. Ijames's superior  2.) Making that public  3.) Copying the exchange to his employer. 

You'll notice no one who supports Levin's open letter has bothered to answer my questions.

The recent dust up at Civil War Memory over Earl Ijames's research on African-Americans who served in the *Confederate Army raises some questions. While I can understand why Kevin Levin might disagree with some of Mr. Ijames's conclusions and analysis and while I certainly have no problem with Mr. Levin writing about those disagreements, I don't quite understand why Mr. Levin found it necessary to attempt to publicly intimidate Mr. Ijames by posting his "open letter" and copying it to one of Mr. Ijames's superiors. Is this an attempt to silence Mr. Ijames?

Why was it necessary to make the request for Mr. Ijames's research public? Why was it necessary to copy the request to Mr. Ijames's superior? And why was it necessary to condescend to Mr. Ijames by suggesting that his work must be flawed because "
he was not trained specifically as a historian?" (This despite the fact that Mr. Ijames is a curator of African-American History at the North Carolina Museum of History and has reserached this topic for 15 years.)

And now Mr. Levin is going to send copies of their exchange to his employer? Why? If this is simply a disagreement and criticism over Mr. Ijames's research and work, then why not write about it, debate it, and have a healthy, robust exchange of information and viewpoints? Again, I ask, is this an attempt to silence Mr. Ijames? And, finallly, since Mr. Levin first criticized Mr. Ijames's work, why won't Mr. Levin accept Mr. Ijames's invitation to debate the subject matter publicly?

(Photograph is of Mr. Earl Ijames )

*Note: Mr. Ijames's research on African Americans in the WBTS is not confined to the Confederacy, as one website notes:

"Earl Ijames, curator of African American history at the N.C. Museum of History, will present a historical vignette about Parker D. Robbins, who fought in the 33rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, during the Civil War. Robbins, one of the state’s free blacks, enlisted in the Union army to help end slavery and win freedom. In 1863 he left his Bertie County farm and traveled to Norfolk, Va., to enlist. Robbins eventually reached the rank of sergeant major."

Mr. Ijames has also worked on the digitization of the NC USCT roster.

56 comments:

WerewolfinExile said...

I get the impression that the notion that blacks who served the Confederacy with distinction may upset the "assumed historical applecart" that certain historians have wedded themselves to regarding the role of blacks in the Confederacy. Complicating our collective understanding and assumptions of the Civil War and race may be too much some historians. The attack on Mr. Ijames history bona fides by Mr. Levin seems like an attempt to discredit the source without wanting to look at or consider the analysis. It sounds like Mr. Ijames has ruffled some feathers, which means he is on to something good. I wish him luck and hope to read more about him.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Wolf:

The subject is, obviously, not without controversy. Much of the problem stems from those who have exaggerated the numbers of blacks who served in the Confederacy and in what capacity they served. My biggest disagreement with Levin and others is their position that these men should be looked upon as nothing more than "Confederate slaves." There are problems with both extremes - those who have exaggerated the numbers and those who don't believe these men should be honored as soldiers.

Of course, some were nothing more than slaves and escaped at the first opportunity. But there were others who, as Mr. Ijames points out, were there and served in varying capacities alongside white soldiers; mostly as teamsters, cooks, etc, yes, but nonetheless rendered important service to the Confederate Army.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BTW Wolf - I did not mean to discount your implied point about PC by some historians. That certainly plays into this whole subject as well - not with all of course, but with some.

Much of this is simple disagreement over conclusions. Everyone approaches this subject a little differently and that impacts how one interprets the records and known facts.

My own research has been focused on the personal aspect and stories of individual black Confederates. I devoted a whole chapter in my book to Jim Lewis who was Stonewall Jackson's body servant (slave) during the WBTS, but who was dedicated to Jackson and his staff and who was also allowed unescorted trips home to Lexington, VA during the war. Every one of these men's stories is unique - it's impossible to lump them altogether and make one broad, generalized conclusion about why and how they served in the Confederate Army. I think certain individuals on both sides of this controversy are doing just that.

And, as I've pointed out before, it is disingenuous to suggest that these men should not be honored for their service - as soldiers - simply because they may have been forced to serve - in whatever capacity. An analogy I've used before: During the Vietnam war, many who opposed it were drafted. Many no doubt would have fled to Canada or simply refused to go had it not been for the influence and pressure of family, society and the legal ramifications of refusing service. So they went with no emotional or intellectual support of their own for "the cause." However, many of these same men, once on the field, bonded with their comrades and were exposed to the same dangers as those who volunteered. They served honorably. Should their service be discounted because they were drafted? I think the answer is clear.

Michael Lynch said...

It's no insult to say that he wasn't specifically trained as a historian. It just means he's got a different educational and professional background. Since Ijames worked as an archivist and curator, it's likely that his graduate work was in library sciences, museum studies, or historic preservation. The course work for these programs differs greatly from that for a graduate history degree--not because they're inferior, but just because they're geared toward different career outcomes that require distinct skill sets.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Michael. Thanks for commenting. I think the tone and context of Kevin's comment was condescending. It's a rather frequent refrain from Kevin. Besides, when it comes to interpreting historical facts, I don't believe it's rocket science. Most individuals of average intelligence who are well read are quite capable of historical analysis and interpretation. They may not be able to write proficiently about it, teach it professionally, or debate some of the finer points - but its really not as difficult and complicated as some try to make it.

The charge is often used in an attempt to discredit someone with whom another disagrees.

MSimons said...

Wow Kevin is really getting into calling people out. I wonder how long it will be till he block Mr. James from posting on his Blog. In all my years of History classes and books read and lectures heard I have never meet someone so combative, rude and underhanded as Kevin at CM.

I never knew that getting a 24-36 hour masters degree in History made you the only EXPERT in Civil War history unless you agree with Kevin.
After reading CM this week I don't care if I ever get to post on his Blog again.

Sic semper tyrannis

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

Don't take my comments to mean I don't think there are professional historians who are masters at their craft. I don't mean that at all. We all have our favorites - Paul Johnson, Shelby Foote, Freeman, Victor Davis Hanson, James Robertson - are just a few of mine.

The point I was making when it comes to analyzing a topic as specific as how and why African-Americans served in the Confederate Army is that it does not take a Ph.D. to read and study that subject and the time period in which it all took place, analyze the information, and come to reasonable conclusions about their service.

Anonymous said...

What's your opinion of Edward Smith, history professor of American University, and his work on black Confederates? Wouldn't his work support or supplement Ijames work? I'm just saying that if someone wants a "professor" title in support of these conclusions, then why not cite those?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

From Jeff Matthews:

". . . while I do not see conspiracies lurking behind every door, this really is nothing more than the Thought Police of the PC crowd."

(Jeff - I edited you comments somewhat. While I understand your anger, I prefer to keep this from getting too personal.)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon:

I really don't have an opinion on Dr. Smith's work as I've not read much of it. I do know he's often quoted on this topic. As I've pointed out before, my own research and study in this area has focused primarily on the individual stories of these men, not the broader themes that the controversy involves.

And I would be quick to agree that some have exaggerated the numbers without sufficient research to back those numbers up. I have a problem with that. On the other hand, I also have a problem with those who don't want to honor these men as soldiers.

13thBama said...

Just as Kevin Levin would dismiss someone for not having "a history background", he should be dismissed as a historian for having an agenda and therefore for not representing history accurately.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

What's your thoughts on Levin's copying all of this to Mr. Ijames's employer?

Michael Lynch said...

I don't really have an opinion on that, actually. I guess he copied it just because he was trying to get copies of research that he thought Ijames conducted in his official capacity as a state employee.

I'm hoping that the proposed online debate happens, so that everybody can see the arguments laid out with documentation.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I guess he copied it just because he was trying to get copies of research that he thought Ijames conducted in his official capacity as a state employee."

"He thought?" He should have asked first. I think there's much more to it than that. I think a public, face to face debate would be better. If the online debate occurs, it should be at a blog where one of the hosts isn't quite so cozy with Levin.

michael aubrecht said...

Levin and Simpson have crossed a line here. I have no idea if this guy is correct in his research or not and i'm not that interested in the subject either, but when they brought the guys employer up in the discussion and also called him a fraud it became more than an issue of debate. Sounds like a legal issue. Levin and Simpson are trying to come off as crusaders but they look like bullies to me.

MSimons said...

I understand what your saying and I agree the Posting of the private letter was classless. I have no problem with Professional PHDed Historians at all just know it all's.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

I've not delved into Mr. Ijames's specific research either. I do agree with Ijames's contention, however, that blacks - whether slave or free - should have their service in the Confederate Army honored where appropriate and that there is nothing improper referring to these men as "soldiers."

And I agree with you, the exchange has taken on a "bully" atmosphere, i.e. - publicly copying letters to his boss, sending the exchange to his employers - seems rather juvenile as well.

Had Levin sent a private request to Ijames, and not been satisfied with his answer, I think it would have been proper for Levin to then contact his employer (privately) inquiring about whether or not Ijames's reasearch was "public" and pursue the information that way. If it was determined the research was "public" and the information was still refused, making that public would then have been justified. Posting the request/letter in the manner which Levin did seems like a big stunt to me (and a very unprofessional one at that) with some ulterior motives.

Moreover, I think the debate suggestion from Simpson is a good one (though I think a public face to face debate would be much more interesting), however, I think the venue should be a blog that is not quite so chummy with Levin.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

The "fraud" charge is one of their favorites.

;o)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

Regarding the legal issue, I really don't think there's anything at this point. Those kinds of suits over opinion and speech are extremely expensive, time-consuming, and rarely worth the time and trouble as they are usually tossed out of court. That being said, should Ijames suffer some repercussions at his job over this, or if he could prove defamation (very tough to do) then that's a whole separate issue. Ijames could then claim some damages - though I certainly hope it doesn't come to that. I do think historians, commentators, bloggers, etc should be given wide latitude in things like this so as not to suppress free speech and the exchange of ideas and perspectives. We'd all suffer if that were to happen.

Nonetheless, Levin's actions were not the most prudent. Wasn't there a similar controversy in one of Levin's post over an article that Eric Wittenberg had written for a CW publication with which Levin disagreed and didn't want it published or something? I don't want to misspeak here, but I recall something along those lines. I also recall Levin took the post down over what I would guess was an admonishment from Eric. Do you recall anything about that?

michael aubrecht said...

Good points Richard and all. Please let me add that whether we get long as people or not, I have no problem with Kevin (or as a result, Brook's) interest in challenging the subject matter of black confederates. My issue is with the public arena being used as the forum to frag this guy and how it can ultimately affect the gentlemen's livelihood. Once they crossed that line it became personal IMO and a whole different level. It would be as if we contacted their employers and made those accusations. To me it’s slander as this guy is a professional. (PS. I'm so happy I'm getting out of this era/business.)

Michael Lynch said...

I'm not here to try to justify anyone's conduct. As I said, I don't have an opinion about Kevin calling Ijames out.

I'd much rather see a written debate than an oral one, so both debaters could provide footnotes and references. A face-to-face debate would be dramatic, though.

--ML

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

MLynch:

Interesting. Let me phrase the question this way - suppose someone who disagreed with your work publicly posted and copied correspondence to your employer? How would you feel about it then?

I agree, written has some advantages as you point out. Why not both? The problem with Professon Simpson's suggestion is he's weighed in on Mr. Ijames, is close to Levin (as far as history blogging goes) and could hardly be seen as a "neutral" host for the written debate. What about Civil War Interactive as host, should Mr. Ijames be interested?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael A:

I agree. Involving his employer has a rather sinister and dirty feel to me.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

Michael--Where have I suggested contacting Mr. Ijames's employer?

Either cite the evidence or withdraw the charge and apologize.

Michael Lynch said...

Well, it's never pleasant to have one's work criticized, so of course I wouldn't be thrilled. Would I think it was improper? I don't know. It depends on the situation, I suppose.

My only remark was that Kevin's statement about having a historian's training wasn't necessarily derogatory, since Mr. Ijames was probably trained in library sciences or some related field.

I'm sure there are any number of venues that would be happy to host an online debate, but I don't think having it at Civil Warriors would be a problem. Non-neutral entities host debates all the time. Christian groups sponsor debates with atheists, science organizations host debates on evolution, and so on. I would envision a moderator playing very little role, other than posting what each debater would submit.

--ML

Anonymous said...

Just a note on the message from Ijames: according to Levin, Ijmaes sent the message from his employer's mail account.

By definition, that involves his employer. And the employer is a government organization.

It's hard to believe Mr Ijames couldn't anticipate that the letter might make it into the open. I would guess that he felt sending it as he did was not an issue.

Anonymous said...

Just for the sake of offering an alternative view - I want to give you a different perspective on the Black Confederate issue.

There's no doubt that many blacks rendered important service to the CSA. This is undisputed.

And when people serve with honor and distinction - there's no problem with recognizing that.

The question I ask is: what would these men - who were slaves - had done if they were free?

Would they have decided to serve? Might not they had used their freedom to make other choices? We know that tens of thousands of black Southerners joined the Union armed forces - how many of these Confederate slaves might have done the same if given the choice? We don't know, we'll never know.

Many - most? - of these men fought for the cause of Southern freedom, even though they themselves would remain in bondage.

This is why I use the term Confederate slave, where it is true to say that. (Not every BC was a slave.) This captures the status and condition of these much better than the term Black Confederate.

Does that recognition make the courage and heroism of these men any less worthy of attention or glory. No - it makes those acts EVEN MORE worthy of attention and glory. And I think these men deserve that.

I'm not trying to convince anybody, and I doubt that I have. But I just wanted to explain some of the passion that people bring to this.

I don't know if there's a middle ground on this, but that's one side of the discussion.

- EarthTone

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Brooks:

No, you did not suggest contacting Mr. Ijames's employer, though you didn't criticize that ploy either. Why not? You did, however, as Michael pointed out, call Mr. Ijames a fraud.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael L.

Yes, and in this situation it was highly improper. Kevin often resorts to demeaning the opinions of others by suggesting they're not "sophisticated enough" or not "properly trained." It's a condescending tactic to dismiss the views of others. What Levin apparently misses is the fact that his condescension is so transparent and obvious, as so many have pointed out.

Simpson has a dog in this fight - another venue, mutually agreeable, would be better. Again, CWI would be perfect in my opinion, assuming they'd be willing.

Thanks again for commenting Michael.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon:

Perhaps, but that does not give the receiver the right to make the email public. I think there have been court cases settling that issue.

I believe there were other motives for copying to his employer and making public.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Earthtone:

"The question I ask is: what would these men - who were slaves - had done if they were free?"

Excellent question. And I think we would agree that most would not have served. But, again, I use the analogy of draftees in the Vietnam War. Let's change just a few words:

What would these men - who were drafted - had done if they were free to choose?

Most likely they would have stayed home. Yet, like some of the Black Confederates, who were also slaves, they did what they had to do and, once involved, many no doubt bonded with the white Confederate soldiers for a whole host of different reasons. Some of those examples have been cited and discussed here and elsewhere.

But, I agree with you, in many (perhaps most) cases, "We don't know, we'll never know."

"No - it makes those acts EVEN MORE worthy of attention and glory. And I think these men deserve that."

I agree and I've stated the exact same thing before.

Thanks much - great comment and input.

Anonymous said...

Levin emailed Ijames at his work email to make a public records request, thinking Ijames had done the research while working for the state, making his research a public record. Ijames replied, saying the research was done on his own time and therefore not a public record (a valid assertion). However, both these emails were created in conjunction with Mr. Ijames job, making them public record. NC Public Records Law G.S. 132 is very clear on this. There is nothing to stop anyone from requesting and publishing those emails.

Anonymous said...

Richard,

Thanks for your indulgence. On last question; actually two:

As mentioned above, I think there's value in identifying a "Black Confederate" as a "Confederate slave," if that designation is correctly made.

Just like the designations MR or MRS/MS have value; just as designations like PVT and GEN have value; I think the term "Confederate slave" has more descriptive value over the term "Black Confederate."

Question:
o Do you see any "downside" to using this term?
o Can you see yourself ever using term?

- EarthTone

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Earthtone:

In answer to your first question, not specifically, though many who are using it are using it exclusively as a means to "combat" or refute the term Black Confederate - some have even stated so.

In answer to your second question. I wouldn't rule out that possibility. In the recent post about Nelson Winbush's grandfather, I said, "Private Nelson was a slave." I do not believe the term "soldier" and "slave" are mutually exclusive.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"No, you did not suggest contacting Mr. Ijames's employer, though you didn't criticize that ploy either."

My understanding is that Kevin Levin copied Mr. Ijames's supervisor in an inquiry for information.

http://cwmemory.com/2010/02/11/an-open-letter-to-earl-ijames/

I'm unaware of any other effort to contact his employer.

I'm also aware that Mr. Ijames responded with a message from his professional e-mail address:

http://cwmemory.com/2010/02/12/earl-ijames-responds/

I'm not aware of any subsequent efforts to contact his employers, although I note that Kevin did say: "My next step will be to send a letter to the director of the NCDAH along with an attached copy of Ijames’s response to my request."

I have no idea whether he's done that, although Mr. Ijames, by sending his response from his work address, opens himself up to that response.

I did express the desire that this debate continue on another forum as per my offer when Kevin posted as follows:

http://cwmemory.com/2010/02/15/we-have-a-responsibility-to-take-care-of-the-past/

See my comment.

As for myself, I participate in online discussions from my own private address using a commercial service.

I think Mr. Ijames needs to clarify whether his research does or does not reflect the position of his employer and whether he's speaking in his private or public capacity. However, I would oppose any attempt to silence him. Indeed, I am offering Civil Warriors as a place where he can present his own views. As he's posted from his employer's address, he's opened the door for Kevin's response.

I hope Mr. Ijames accepts my invitation. I'd like to hear about his research and findings. I see no harm in that. I did not consult Kevin before making the offer. I have not communicated with him privately concerning this matter. I understand Kevin's forwarded the information to Mr. Ijames. If nothing happens, I'll forward an invitation, this time from my professional address. That should be sufficient to guarantee my accountability in this matter, especially to anyone who does not trust a UVa graduate. :)

Michael still owes me a retraction and an apology. You admit he was in error.

You also say:

"You did, however, as Michael pointed out, call Mr. Ijames a fraud."

Would you care to show us where I said this? I'm aware that someone else called him a fraud.

My comments on Kevin's blog can be found here:

http://disqus.com/bdsimpson/

Again, if Michael and you are in error, I expect a retraction from both of you and an apology.

It's up to Mr. Ijames as to whether or not he accepts the invitation, and it will be up to others to interpret his response.

I have no opinion on the two cases Mr. Ijames discusses, and I'm more than willing to be convinced that he's right. Given that fact, I don't understand why anyone is not interested in this discussion, or why anyone would attempt to derail it by raising all sorts of excuses. That smacks of silencing the free exchange of ideas.

The invitation stands.

michael aubrecht said...

Brooks, I apologize if I implied that you specifically said those things. I simply meant that you followed Kevin's lead. I have never had a personal issue with you. That said, you have to admit that it appears a little ‘fishy’ after you interjected yourself into the discussion criticizing this gentleman, then you "graciously" offered to un-biasly host an online debate. The bottom line is that Kevin looks like a total **** and for that I will not apologize. He has become obsessed with this issue and he could have conducted his “investigation” into this guy’s research privately before posting 5 continuous posts that frag the guy. As he is a professional historian, when someone refers to his work as being fraudulent, it looks like an attack on his livelihood. Levin has become a full-time antagonizer. Like I said, this guy may be full of baloney, but this is a classless way to conduct oneself online. I wonder why after 15 years, Kevin and his readers are the first people to challenge him? I feel sorry for the guy regardless and this implied "witchhunt"is everything that is wrong with blogging.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Professor:

All points regarding the emails duly noted. However, I would concur with Michael's assessment regarding the way Levin handled the whole matter. Going public on his blog in the manner he did had, in my opinion, other purposes than inquiry. Regarding contacting his employer, KL stated that was his next step.

"I think Mr. Ijames needs to clarify whether his research does or does not reflect the position of his employer and whether he's speaking in his private or public capacity."

Yes, a good practice, but how do you know he's not done so? And whether or not he's done so does not affirm nor negate the validity of his research. So what's the point here?

I think a face to face debate would be better, but the online option is a good idea. Again, I'd have to agree with Michael that your blog can hardly be viewed as a neutral forum, since you're heavily involved in the issue already. I had suggested Civil War Interactive as host (assuming they'd be willing) in another comment. They are more "newsy" and, I believe, would be fair in moderating the debate.

In regards to trusting a UVa grad, that's a positive, not a negative. I've been a Wahoo fan since the Barry Parkhill and Ralph Sampson days. Anyone who went to Mr. Jefferson's University and roots for the Hoos can't be all bad. ;o)

Regarding the fraud comment, you are correct and I was mistaken. It was KL who made that charge, not you. My apologies for accusing you of doing that.

Again, I support the free exchange of ideas in this discussion but were I in Mr. Ijames's shoes, I'd be very hesitant in participating at a venue where someone involved had already weighed in on the specific controversy and who seemed to be rather friendly with my opponent.

Thanks for your comments Brooks and for getting our exchange back on a civil footing.

Anonymous said...

It's true that this Mr. Simpson echoed Levin's derogatory language in his offer to provide a biased forum. At the same time, both Mr. Simpson and Levin have ignored or declined to have a public discourse on this matter. A written response with citations could also supplement this debate. Public debate, which Ijames has graciously offered, does require a certain amount of fortitude though, so let's see if Levin can accept this democratic opportunity.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"Again, I'd have to agree with Michael that your blog can hardly be viewed as a neutral forum, since you're heavily involved in the issue already."

I've not passed judgment on Mr. Ijames's specific findings. I have passed judgment on his exchange with Mr. Levin. The fair-minded among us will have to acknowledge that Mr. Ijames's word choice and several of his statements in his reply to Mr. Levin were inappropriate. I'm simply holding him to his word. In turn, I've mentioned on Mr. Levin's blog that perhaps he needs to await the outcome of the invitation. That's what we should all be in support of now: a free and fair exchange of ideas and the open presentation and evaluation of evidence.

Readers of Mr. Levin's blog will recall that I took similiar exception to a post offered by John Stauffer, whose views on the Civil War could not be described as right-wing, conservative, or whatever. So one would be incorrect in assuming that my objection to Mr. Ijames's response was due to the position he took. Rather, it was the manner in which he expressed himself.

As I see it, we are discussing two things here: the status of two individuals (over which I have no judgment, pending the discussion) and what people extrapolate from such findings. I ask Mr. Ijames to offer his evidence as to the former, and I also ask that people not prejudge anything in this discussion, or to try to undermine free discussion by throwing roadblocks in its way. People will be able to see how I host the discussion, and rather than people imposing preconceptions on what I will do, perhaps they'd be better served by waiting for the event itself. Otherwise, I'm afraid folks will see this as a way to undermine a discussion that I think we all agree should take place where all of us can see it and ask questions.

I appreciate your apology. Thank you. I think some of your readers assume that Kevin and I are some hydra-headed beast, but discerning and informed people know otherwise.

Brooks Simpson said...

Michael:

I accept your retraction and apology. Thank you.

You say:

"Brooks, I apologize if I implied that you specifically said those things. I simply meant that you followed Kevin's lead."

Not really. I understand that Kevin has a particular interest in the issue of black Confederates. I have a particular interest in historical accuracy and the need to find out what happened. Sometimes those interests overlap. Kevin's far more interested than I in the subject of Civil War memory, and in fact I've become somewhat more critical of those studies over time. Kevin and I have disagreed over other things, as you well know.

I understand that Kevin and Mr. Ijames have been at it for a while. I'd like to know about the merits of Mr. Ijames's case concerning these two individuals. Wouldn't you?

"That said, you have to admit that it appears a little ‘fishy’ after you interjected yourself into the discussion criticizing this gentleman, then you "graciously" offered to un-biasly host an online debate."

I have criticized the way in which Mr. Ijames expressed himself in his letter to Kevin. I've done that with other historians, and I've done it on Kevin's blog. I have not expressed myself concerning his findings. Nor did I contact Kevin before posting my offer. I simply have had enough of this nonsense. Let's set aside all the snide stuff, and, as I have said, let's hit the "reset" button and have the discussion everyone claims they want to see.

I do think that Mr. Ijames should be held to the same standards as Kevin Levin, and that he should be willing to be judged by the same terms he uses in judging Kevin in his letter. Is there a problem with that?

Given my professional reputation, why would I put it in danger by favoring one party or the other? Why would I otherwise make the offer? The discussion has yet to begin, and already I'm being accused of bias, although no evidence has been produced in support of that allegation. Why are people afraid of this? What are they hiding?

It seems to me that while some people claim to want to have this discussion, they are already trying to derail it. No matter. Mr. Ijames has been invited to present his case. It is up to him to respond. Let him speak for himself.

I'm sure my conduct will be scrutinized by my fellow professionals. Let's drop all this claptrap and let the interested parties discuss this matter before all of us. Those people who want this discussion will support that, and those who don't, won't.

Thank you.

BorderRuffian said...

RGW
"The problem with Professon Simpson's suggestion is he's weighed in on Mr. Ijames, is close to Levin (as far as history blogging goes) and could hardly be seen as a 'neutral' host for the written debate."
=================================

I agree.

It appears that Mr. Simpson wants to limit the subject of the debate to Weary Clyburn and John Venable.

That is definitely a setup.

It gives advantage to Levin because that's the only ones Levin has challenged. I'm sure Mr. Ijames has found more black Confederates in his research than just Clyburn and Venable.

michael aubrecht said...

I cannot believe the arrogance of this guy. He actually said this:

“That kind of comment can only appear on RW's blog. What I find absolutely hilarious is that it takes some of my regular readers to bring about a constructive discussion on his site. I just can't bring myself to respond to a "RebelRaider", "JacksonianLawyer", "WereWolfinExile" or "BorderRuffian". :D”

So now he's making fun of people's screen names? Can you imagine what he would post if somebody ripped on his reader's screen names? Seriously, the level of immaturity that is being exhibited by Levin is downright surprising. I don't think he realizes how poorly this whole affair reflects on him.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You and Kevin share the same views when it comes to Black Confederates. You've already staked out your position - nothing wrong with that. And you may well be able to set your views aside and be an objective moderator - I don't necessarily believe that could not be done . . . I just think some other blogger who hasn't been quite so vocal about the issue would be better viewed as a neutral forum. But that's not my decision, that will be up to Mr. Ijames.

"That's what we should all be in support of now: a free and fair exchange of ideas and the open presentation and evaluation of evidence."

In that, we are in complete agreement.

"I appreciate your apology. Thank you."

You're welcome. Apologizing has become 2nd nature to me - I've been married almost 30 years.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BR:

I don't know if the intent is to limit debate to these 2 individuals. Of course, some parameters have to be set, but all this is really moot until/unless Mr. Ijames responds.

Part of the discussion has led to whether or not Black Confederates should be called soldiers. I think that should be part of the discussion. I'll be posting more on that later.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael A.:

Kevin has quite a track record of ad hominem attacks & name calling ("fool", "fraud", etc.) which is why I quit commenting there. I suppose more of "my regular readers" could offer commentary on his site if he hadn't banned many of them. ;o)

Anonymous said...

"if he hadn't banned many of them" - RGW

Hey, it works for China, Iran, and North Korea. Will Kevin hold a public debate? If not, then what is he afraid of?

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"You and Kevin share the same views when it comes to Black Confederates. You've already staked out your position - nothing wrong with that."

With all due respect, Richard, you're in error there. Indeed, and this may come of something of a shock to you, on this issue in terms of the details of actual service, etc., you and I may share some common ground.

My position on the significance of such service and my skepticism aboput the extravagant claims of some people in this debate's public knowledge, and was expressed long before I knew of either Kevin or blogging. But I think individual cases, taken as individual cases, offer a much more interesting territory to explore, provided we don't draw unsupportable generalizations based on a limited sample set.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

"It appears that Mr. Simpson wants to limit the subject of the debate to Weary Clyburn and John Venable."

BR, you asked about the same question on Civil Warriors.

Here's what I said:

"As I have yet to hear from Mr. Ijames, I won’t speculate on the boundaries of the discussion. But I’m sure we’d all like to hear about the two individuals with whom he is most closely identified. I can’t imagine there would be any reasonable objection to that."

I wonder why you would thus misrepresent my position here. Perhaps you can explain to all why you did not share my actual response but instead speculated as you did.

I find it interesting that some of the very people who say this issue is a hidden part of our past seem to be quite earnest now in attempting to derail a discussion of it. When bias is assumed beforehand, one concludes that some people really don't want a discussion, else they would have pushed for one.

I do appreciate Richard and Michael posting under their own names. They are willing to be held accountable for what they say. I understand that people who don't post under their names are to be found on various sides of the question, but it does seem to me that it's curious for people with screen names to go about assailing the integrity of others.

Then again, it isn't as if their ISP and IPs don't give them away in someinstances. :) How's the weather in Mississippi today, BR? Using the church's IP again?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Well, I'll retract - again.

"skepticism aboput [about] the extravagant claims of some people"

I agree wholeheartedly. Some of the claims are rather embarrassing. That being said, it is also a bad practice to simply dismiss some of the eyewitness accounts as "cut and pasted" analysis.

"But I think individual cases, taken as individual cases, offer a much more interesting territory to explore, provided we don't draw unsupportable generalizations based on a limited sample set."

Yes, I find many of the accounts quite interesting. I'm currently researching several. I agree on the dangers of generalization as well, though some are warranted.

No doubt most would have chosen personal freedom over fighting for the Confederacy (many whites would have as well). Others, particularly those who had been long term body servants (slaves), had a familial connection to their master/soldier and a number of accounts exist that would warrant that man being honored as a soldier for services rendered. Jackson's body servant, Jim Lewis, is one such example (though the record indicates Lewis was actually "leased" from one of Jackson's fellow church members).

Slaves as soldiers has a rather long history - Muslim Mamluks (warrior slaves) for example. Not a perfect analogy, but worth mentioning. There are other examples as well.

Border Ruffian said...

Brooks Simpson:
"I wonder why you would thus misrepresent my position here. Perhaps you can explain to all why you did not share my actual response but instead speculated as you did."
=========================

Check the timeline:

My post here
16 February, 2010 13:38 [1:38 pm]

My post at CivilWarriors
16-Feb-10 at 2:24 pm

Your reply at same
16-Feb-10 at 2:43 pm

Both of my posts were before your reply.

========================


B.Simpson:
"I do appreciate Richard and Michael posting under their own names....Then again, it isn't as if their ISP and IPs don't give them away in someinstances. :) How's the weather in Mississippi today, BR? Using the church's IP again?"
===============================

Church in Mississippi?

;)

I don't know what's feeding you that info but it's off by about 500 miles.

Toby said...

Richard mentioned "slave as soldiers", but you would be hard put to find decent analogies. Mamelukes and Janissaries are not good examples. It is true they were Christian slaves take from their parents, but they were installed & pampered in special barracks. Eventually, they virtually took over the Egyptian and Turkish states respectively.

In his proposal to free the slaves (and turn them into soldiers), Patrick Cleburne could only come up with two examples of slaves who fought as slaves. The first were the Spartan helots, but the helots were serfs who had property, not slaves. The other was the Christian galley slaves who fought at Lepanto, but these chained-up wretches are hardly good examples, either.

Cleburne also mentions Haitian rebels, and Jamaican "Maroons", but these fought as free men, with liberty as their objective.

It seems extraordinary to me that Cleburne did not seem to be aware of a single slave who fought in an organized unit for the Confederacy. If he was aware, he would surely have cited it (or them) in support of his proposal.

Furthermore, if "slave-soldiers" were the norm in the Confederate army, rather than the rare exception, why did he feel the need to make such a proposal in the first place? And why did some fellow-officers like General W.H.Walker take on so furiously when he did so? Why did Jefferson Davis order all copies of Cleburne's proposal be suppressed?

The lack of answers to these questions make the concept of "black Confederate slave-solidiers" a total fallacy, in my opinion. But, of course, if there are rational answers, I would be very interested in hearing them.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Toby:

"It is true they were Christian slaves take from their parents"

Slaves as soldiers - that's the analogy as far as it goes. Its not unique to the Confederacy.

Those who serve in various aspects of military units do more than fight - there are hundreds of support positions which without, the army would collapse. Are you suggesting these don't deserve recognition?

"Furthermore, if "slave-soldiers" were the norm in the Confederate army, rather than the rare exception . . ."

If you want to have a reasonable discussion here, fine, but don't put words in my mouth. I believe it IS the exception, not the rule and I don't have the time to waste replying to red herrings and straw men arguments. Sorry, but my skin is beginning to wear a little thin on the nonsense over this issue.

If you and others want to stake out the position that those men (free and slave) who were exposed to danger, labored in support of the Confederacy, and did so for various reasons (which have been explored in the books recommended below) should not be recognized and/or honored for their contribution, that's fine. I disagree and think it is a flawed argument.

For a balanced presentation of this subject, I would recommend Ervin Jordan's book - Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia and another book, though dated, is also a good study: The Confederate Negro: Virginia's Craftsmen and Military Laborers by James H. Brewer (and endorsed by Jordan). And one more by Professor Bell Irvin Wiley: Southern Negroes, 1861-1865 - also somewhat dated, but a good study nonetheless.

Brooks D. Simpson said...

BR:

Thank you for acknowledging that you were incorrect as to my position. Now you're claiming that you declared my position before asking about it, and then failed to post a correction here. That substantiates my claim of deliberate misrepresentation, and you've kindly provided evidence of it.

As for your location, I suggest you check your IP. It's included in the information sent me when anyone posts. It's a common tool of blogging software.

Lots of people think they are anonymous on the internet. Not quite.

BorderRuffian said...

Brooks Simpson-
"Thank you for acknowledging that you were incorrect as to my position. Now you're claiming that you declared my position before asking about it..."
=============================


Based on the title of your post-

"On Weary Clyburn and John Venable: An Invitation to Discuss the Research of Earl L. Ijames on Black Confederates"

-it's a fair interpretation.


BSimpson-
"...and then failed to post a correction here. That substantiates my claim of deliberate misrepresentation, and you've kindly provided evidence of it."
===========================

No. There was no aim to misrepresent your views.


BSimpson-
"As for your location, I suggest you check your IP. It's included in the information sent me when anyone posts. It's a common tool of blogging software.
[I know...but I assure you I'm not lurking in a church somewhere in Mississippi.]

Lots of people think they are anonymous on the internet. Not quite."
===========================

Why are you so interested in my identity?

BorderRuffian said...

Why does Levin have such an obsession with Earl Ijames?

Does Levin think he should be head of some oversight committee on the study of black Confederates?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey BR. He does seem to be quite obsessed. And he does come off as some kind of self-appointed gatekeeper, doesn't he?

Much, though not all, is a disagreement over interpretation of the record, despite Levin's denial of that.