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Blunt Family papers, 1943-1965 1.2 Linear Feet — 400 Items

The papers of the Blunt family, an African American family originating in the tidewater region of Virginia, span the years 1943-1965. The collection consists of seven series: Correspondence, Financial Papers, Genealogy, Miscellaneous, Clippings, Printed Material, and Photographs. The Correspondence Series has been divided into subseries by the following addressees:

  • Norma(n) Blunt
  • Barbara Blunt
  • Bertha Blunt
  • Ella Blunt
  • Junior Green
  • Malachi Blunt
  • Marion Jacobs
  • Martha Blunt
  • Mary Blunt
  • Unknown

In the case of Norma(n) Blunt, correspondence has been further divided by addresser. Thus there are also the following subseries:

  • Norma(n) Blunt from Guy Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Annie Wood
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Louise Boone
  • Norma(n) Blunt
  • from Barbara Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Bertha Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Ella Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Elmo Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt
  • from John Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Marion Nash
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Martha Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt from Sarah Blunt
  • Norma(n) Blunt
  • from "Old Pal Chris"
  • Norma(n) Blunt from various and unknown

The collection contains several letters from the Blunt sons to their mother, Norma(n) Blunt. The bulk of the Blunt family papers, however, consists of correspondence between Norma(n) Blunt and her daughters who have left home and moved to various points along the east coast and to the west. In the main, these letters address domestic issues. The letters to the elder Blunt from her daughter Bertha, for example, focus on the problems faced by a young woman who sets up house far from any kin. Taken as a whole, the letters of the Blunt daughters reveal the bonds of exchange and support that tie the women to their mother and to each other even when all are otherwise separated by many miles. When Sarah Blunt makes new starts in new places, for example, she entrusts several of her children to the care her mother. At times, other daughters do the same. And few are the letters between daughters and mother that do not either ask for, offer thanks for, enclose, or alert that future missives will contain money. The Correspondence Series allows insight into the sorts of in-kind and monetary exchanges that sustained various segments of the large and scattered Blunt extended family.

Also emergent in the letters to Norma(n) Blunt are discussions of a number of health issues. Blunt's daughters sometimes refer to their children's health, the trials of pregnancy, and the costs and burdens of health care. In a letter between Norma(n) Blunt and her sister Louise Boone, for example, the former broaches the topic of illegal abortions (May 15, 1962).

Letters to Norma(n) Blunt from her sister Louise Boone detail the workings of a black women's voluntary association, the Household of Ruth Lodge of Branchville Virginia. Norma(n) Blunt was active in the lodge even though she did not reside in Branchville. Through her sister, the elder Blunt kept her dues current and stayed abreast of the lodge's inner workings. The monetary and in-kind exchanges pronounced in letters between the elder Blunt and her daughters are also evident here.

Letters addressed to the Blunt children round out the Correspondence Series. Issues concerning courtship and parent-child relationships emerge from these letters.

Blunt family papers are a collection generated by migration. The letters in the Correspondence Series reveal the strains and stresses of relocation and offer insight into how one African American family managed the exigencies of continuous settlement and resettlement.


Josephine Napoleon Leary papers, 1875-1991 0.5 Linear Feet — 1 box — approximately 352 items

The papers of Josephine Napoleon Leary contain financial and legal papers, correspondence, biographical materials, and photographs pertaining to the life and business ventures of African American businesswoman Josephine N. Leary and her daughter Clara Ryan. Records document her real estate and other business transactions the coastal town of Edenton, North Carolina, where they resided; the earliest deed dates back to 1875. There are also architectural and historical documents relating to Edenton. Photographs of Leary and Reeves family members date from 1895 to about 1935. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.

The Josephine Leary papers chiefly comprise business papers relating to the properties she owned in Edenton, N.C., and to a barber shop operated by Leary and her husband; these records include deeds, the earliest of which dates to the 1870s; mortgage and estate papers; bank records; and bills and receipts. Other papers include correspondence to Leary, her daughter Clara C. Ryan, Clara's husband Noah Ryan, and Clara's son, Percy Reeves, as well as correspondence pertaining to legal matters and to Leary's estate.

A group of biographical and historical papers contain maps, pamphlets, and other information related to late 19th and early 20th century Edenton and to the Leary legacy. These date mostly from Leary's lifetime, but also include later secondary sources about Edenton and Leary. Included in this group are the original plans for the J.N. Leary building (1894) that still stands on Broad Street in downtown Edenton.

The collection is completed by a few undated writings by Leary, one of which seems to be a eulogy, and by a group of albumen and gelatin silver photographs of Leary and her family, including her daughter, her brother, an uncle, her grandson Percy Reeves, and his family.