Blackwell Markham Papers, 1879-1988

Creator: Markham, Blackwell.
Collection number: 5427
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Abstract: Blackwell Markham (1897-1977) was a general surgeon in Durham, N.C. He received his medical training at the University of North Carolina and at Harvard University. He served in the United States Army in World War II in North Africa and Europe. The collection contains correspondence, greeting cards, diaries, personal papers, a few business papers, and photographs relating to Blackwell Markham and his family. Topics include family matters and life during World War II. Much of the correspondence is between Markham and family members and with Mary Poteat, an English teacher at Duke University with whom he corresponded for 40 years; the bulk was written from Italy and Algeria, 1942-1945. There are also detailed diaries kept by Markham during World War II that include descriptions of specific patient cases, travel, and hospital and general military life. Also included is a diary, written in Italian, that was at least partially compiled by internees at an Italian prisoner of war camp in Algeria where Markham was stationed. There are also scrapbooks and other materials primarily relating to Markham while he attended Durham High School; the University of North Carolina; and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. There are also materials, many annotated by Markham, relating to earlier generations of Markhams, including John L. Markham Sr., who owned a general store in Durham and died circa 1900. Some materials relate to Markham and Brogden relatives, including letters of John L. Markham Jr. while serving in the United States Army in Columbia, S.C., during World War I, 1917-1919; letters of Markham’s nephew, Blackwell M. Brogden, while serving in the United States Navy, 1942-1945; and papers relating to North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Willis J. Brogden Sr. Also included are materials relating to Ritta Geer, the Markhams’ longtime African American domestic servant. Photographs are of Markham and the Markham family members, 1860s-1972, and include three tintypes, circa 1860. Photographs between about 1900 and 1930 include formal portraits and candid shots of the Markham family; posed portraits of servants, including Ritta Geer; and images of various locations around Durham. There are also World War II photographs taken by Markham in North Africa and Europe; photographer Margaret Bourke-White appears in a few of the images.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: A significant amount of Markham’s correspondence discusses being stationed as a military surgeon overseas, including North Africa (see particularly Folders 5-30; 35-72). He also describes the end of a military campaign in Tunisia in 1943 (Folder 185).

There are also letters related to Ritta Geer, the Markham’s longtime domestic servant. Folder 223 contains a 13 November 1934 receipt for Geer’s funeral expenses addressed to Blackwell Markham; an 11 October 1926 letter from Ritta Geer’s niece Cleora that discusses a family rift and Cleora’s desire to bring Geer to live with her in Pittsburgh, Pa.; and a Bible belonging to Geer, with a few handwritten annotations. There are also letters from John Markham, Jr. to Ella Markham from Camp Jackson between 1917-1919¬† writing about missing comforts of home including Ritta Geer’s homecooking¬† (Folder 218-220).