Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.
Pittsburgh owes much appreciation to one man for documenting the city’s African American urban life during the Jim Crow era—specifically, this sharp lensman concentrated on the Hill District and a once-thriving social life that has long-since passed and faded to memory.
The Hill District during its heyday was a vibrant place, the city’s cultural center—where people of all ethnicities lived alongside each other, and where independent businesses and Pittsburgh’s Jazz scene thrived. Who is this man?
We’ll give you a couple hints: He’s had numerous exhibitions of his photographs over the years in Pittsburgh and nationally (the Carnegie Museum of Art showcased his work in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011), has an archive devoted to his work of over 80,000 negatives and worked for the Pittsburgh Courier.
The answer: Charles “Teenie” Harris.
Harris was born in 1908 and was an avid baseball player in his youth, later becoming a semi-pro athlete, and among other things, playing for the Negro league Pittsburgh Crawfords. It wasn’t until the early 1930s that he bought his first camera. He proved to be a natural, and within a few years opened his own photography studio (earning the nickname “One Shot” because he rarely made his subjects sit for long) and became the main photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of America’s leading black newspapers during the 1930s and Civil Rights eras.
This working class beat photographer snapped well over 100,00 images for The Courier during his years at the paper (1936-1975). And he did it in a unique way, shooting the important and influential people of his day, with the city’s everyday life. Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and John F. Kennedy were all photographed by Harris, alongside Pittsburgh’s weddings, nightlife and little-league games. He found them all equally important and celebrated and portrayed the dignified lives of African American people that became even more influential during the 1960s. You can learn more about this fantastic man at the Library. Just a few of the titles we have for you to peruse:
- One Shot: The Life and Work of Teenie Harris (DVD)
- Teenie Harris by Edna B. McKenzie: Available for in-library use only; ask for it in the Pennsylvania Department.
- Voices from the Firing Line: A Personal Account of the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement by Ralph Proctor.
- Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project: Available for in-library use only at CLP – Allegheny and the Main Library’s Pennsylvania Department.
- Spirit of a Community: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris: An Exhibition: Published by the Westmoreland County Museum of Art.
- One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris by Stanley Crouch.
- Teenie Harris, Photographer: Image, Memory, History by Cheryl Finley.