In honor of Black History Month, below are some photographs of local women who aided in the struggle of Civil Rights, as seen through the lens of Charles “Teenie” Harris. In Teenie’s heyday, these ladies were quite instrumental and inspirational in the fight for racial equality. Their plight was most often displayed in a quiet yet unyielding push in education, social services, employment, charitable aid, medicine, and housing. As wives and mothers, their strength propelled them to build a better world, not only for themselves, but for the generations to come. We thank these pillars of society.
Don’t miss our new Facebook series, Teenie Tuesday! The Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive contains approximately 80,000 images taken by Harris throughout his stellar career. A richly detailed record of public personalities and everyday Pittsburghers, the Archive is considered one of the most important documentations of 20th-century African American life. Since 2003, the museum has scanned and cataloged nearly 60,000 images, many of which are available on our Collection Search page. Identification of this vast collection is ongoing and we are always interested in hearing your stories regarding a Teenie photograph. Through our Facebook posts, we will share what’s new with the Archive, related events, images that could use some help from the public identifying the subjects and locations, and remembrances of the people, places, and events that Teenie photographed.
Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998) chronicled the life of African Americans and other Pittsburghers through his photographic work from 1936–1975 in the nationally preeminent Black newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier. He also freelanced for the Washington D.C. news picture magazine, Flash!, and maintained a portrait studio in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Nicknamed “One Shot” because of his speed and precision capturing a moment in time, Teenie’s archive is a richly detailed record of the lives of international celebrities, sports figures, politicians, Civil Rights leaders, and local residents.
These photos created a sense of pride, dignity and respect in the minority community. As his oldest child, Charles A. Harris, explained, “Dad’s lens offered an equal opportunity to all. Those who faced that lens had a feeling of being special. He was blessed with an uncanny instinct that brought out the emotions of those he photographed. His photographs are a testament to his artistry and his life.”
Have a question or information about a photo from the Archive? Get in touch.
Charlene Foggie Barnett, Teenie Harris Archive Assistant: email@example.com
Kerin Shellenbarger, Research Archivist, Teenie Harris Archive: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to order your own prints from the Teenie Harris Archive?
Photo orders may be directed to RequestAPrint online.
Need to license a Teenie Harris image for publication?
Visit Getty Images online.
—Charlene Foggie Barnett, Teenie Harris Archive Assistant & Oral History Coordinator
Black and white cloth. Gloves, glasses, and patrol guard belts. Children’s earnest faces. On October 17–20, 2013, the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side displayed the Nia Quilt Guild’s unique project, “A Quilter’s View of the Arts.” The event was sponsored by YMWAHA (Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association) and the concept was for the quiltmakers to respond to challenges representing five distinct art disciplines: painting, dance, spoken word, music, and photography. The Charles “Teenie” Harris portrait (below) of a 1949 school patrol guard, on a street with outstretched arms protecting just under a dozen children, was chosen to represent the photographic arts.
With clever flair, seven quilters captured their personal interpretation of the photo image, sewn in black, gray, and white cloth, mimicking the black and white photography Mr. Harris is best known for. On some of the works, strips of straight lines depicted the crossing guards belt and street patterns, while on others patterned swirls imitated the children’s posture and energy. One quilt even had small gloves and glasses echoing the guard’s attire. I was quite impressed with them all, but was especially drawn to the quilt of the children’s images copied onto cloth and placed in the silhouette of Teenie’s famous Speed Graphic camera, with which the photo was undoubtedly taken. As quilt artist Joyce Broadus gave me a tour of the quilts, she mentioned that using black and white cloth had been particularly challenging to the seamstresses accustomed to using more color and pattern, but that they eventually found it exciting to bring life to the static palette. I chuckled aloud, however, when informed that one quilter, who didn’t like the lack of color, sewed the back of her piece with bright red circles to depict the vitality of children, and aptly titled her creation, “Don’t Make Me Do Black and White Again!”
Photography illustrated through needle and thread is a refreshing appreciation of the Harris collection. Known for being a very down-to-earth gentleman, Teenie certainly would be thrilled that his work was characterized in such unique fashion, and in support of programs benefiting a popular subject of his lens—youngsters of color. Bravo for an exceptional exhibition!