Author Archives: Kerin Shellenbarger, Research Archivist, Teenie Harris Archive

Halloween in 1940s Pittsburgh through the Lens of Teenie Harris


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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Children wearing Halloween costumes at Bedford Dwellings, October 31, 1941, black and white: Agfa Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.6426 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive.

The caption of this image published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper on November 8, 1941, page 22, reads: “Inclement Weather forced cancellation of outdoor celebrations Halloween night but the Bedford Dwellings party, sponsored by the Parents Commission and the Tenants Council, attracted over 450 costumed kiddies from the Hill area. This was the largest party held in the Dwellings. The above picture shows part of the huge youthful gathering. Harris Photo.”

Bedford Dwellings was among the country’s first housing projects. Built over the former sites of Greenlee Field and Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in the Hill District, it offered safe affordable housing with heat, plumbing, and electricity—necessities that were sometimes lacking from other slum landlord-owned neighborhood buildings. It was also home to a large immigrant population—both African Americans coming up from the South and Europeans seeking jobs in the area industries. In 1941, the buildings were still nearly brand-new and according to the Pittsburgh Courier, out of 800 residents, nearly 400 were children. A large Halloween celebration was planned for them, but the weather did not cooperate—an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that ran on November 1st, stated: “Maybe the witches were riding fire hoses instead of broomsticks, for during the afternoon and evening more than a half inch of rain fell…”

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An Oral History of Teenie Harris’s Iconic ‘Black Monday’ Photograph


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K. Chase Patterson and Alma Speed Fox, curators of Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives, during a visit to the Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art in September 2014.

Here at Carnegie Museum of Art we’ve just installed the latest show of Charles “Teenie” Harris’s work in the Lobby Gallery, featuring 25 images on a particular theme as selected by guest curators. The exhibition, Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives, is quite special because the theme of civil rights is by far the largest of Harris’s work. He documented not only protest marches and demonstrations, but the meetings held to plan them; integration efforts in education, employment, and the military; African Americans who were the first to hold particular jobs and political roles in Western Pennsylvania; housing discrimination and poor living conditions; injustices in urban redevelopment; and the day-to-day struggles and joys where basic rights were denied or granted. This is the first look into this enormous and important topic of his work.

We were honored to work with guest curators Alma Speed Fox, former Executive Director, Pittsburgh NAACP and founding member and Executive Vice President of Freedom Unlimited, and K. Chase Patterson, President and CEO of Corporate Diversity Associates and Chairman of Centennial Human Rights Dinner, Pittsburgh NAACP. Their conversations about who were in the pictures and what they were doing, were often valuable and vast, and could not possibly fit on a label, such as the passage below about one of Harris’s iconic images from the civil rights movement.

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Architecture + Teenie Harris


Charles "Teenie" Harris," Dramatic sky seen from Penn Avenue near Homewood, c. 1943,  gelatin silver print, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 1996.69.224 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dramatic sky seen from Penn Avenue near Homewood, c. 1943, gelatin silver print, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 1996.69.224 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Teenie Harris is perhaps best known for his ability to photograph people and capture their spectrum of expressions as well as truthfully document their life events. He was surrounded by family, friends, and a large community who seemed to be drawn to him and offered their trust to his lens, as well as frequently “photobombed” the margins of his frame while he was on assignment.

But Harris also had a keen eye for architecture and the urban landscape—he was known to have a deep love for the city of Pittsburgh, and at times it seems as if the city itself was another member of his community. His landscape and architectural images show the same intimacy and the deliberate and careful composition that he used when photographing children playing in the street or a family being evicted from their home. Continue reading

Teenie Harris’s Pastime


Charles "Teenie" Harris, Charles "Teenie" Harris, wearing riding attire, seated on horse and patting the horse's neck, possibly in Schenley Park, with Adirondack chair in background, c. 1935-1940, black and white: unknown safety film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.8715 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Charles “Teenie” Harris, wearing riding attire, seated on horse and patting the horse’s neck, possibly in Schenley Park, with Adirondack chair in background, c. 1935-1940, black and white: unknown safety film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.8715 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive

When we talk to people who knew Teenie Harris personally we hear the same thing over and over again: Teenie was everywhere, always taking pictures. We asked his family if he ever slept since the other part of taking pictures required long hours in the darkroom. They said he managed to keep on going with his trademark positive energy despite little sleep at times. Then we wondered, what about his down time, did he ever put down the camera? Continue reading

George Barbour and Teenie Harris Speak Up


Charles "Teenie" Harris, Group portrait of Pittsburgh Courier newspaper employees, seated from left: Hazel Garland, John Clark, Willa Mae Rice; standing: Charles "Teenie" Harris, Frank Bolden, Ralph Koger, Rev. Burt Logan, and George Barbour, posed in Pittsburgh Courier newspaper office, c. 1955, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Group portrait of Pittsburgh Courier newspaper employees, seated from left: Hazel Garland, John Clark, Willa Mae Rice; standing: Charles “Teenie” Harris, Frank Bolden, Ralph Koger, Rev. Burt Logan, and George Barbour, posed in Pittsburgh Courier newspaper office, c. 1955, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Race: Are We So Different? opens March 29 at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and will include Teenie Harris images from Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection as a collaboration between the two museums. This photographic project will recreate the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column which ran from the 1950s to 70s in the preeminent African American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. In the original column, Teenie’s photos accompanied interviews by reporter George Barbour (approx. 1957–1963). In reflection of this team, current KDKA TV anchor and producer Lynne Hayes-Freeland will serve as the community curator and interviewer, and Pittsburgh artist Nikkia Margaret Hall will photograph people as they respond to some of the same questions posed by and published in the Courier several decades ago. Teenie’s historic portraits and the responses of subjects will be presented alongside their contemporary counterparts in the exhibition’s Community Voices Gallery. Exhibition visitors will be encouraged to post their own opinions and responses to the questions on how race impacts their daily lives.

Pittsburgh Courier reporter George Barbour writing in notebook, and Edward A. Brennan standing on sidewalk with buildings in background, 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Pittsburgh Courier reporter George Barbour writing in notebook, and Edward A. Brennan standing on sidewalk with buildings in background, 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

In an interview with archive staff in 2011, Mr. Barbour described his work with Teenie Harris:

“Yeah, man on the street, that was a lot of fun… so every week, I think it was on—when was it? It was the first of the week, Monday or Tuesday, we’d go Downtown, and the editor Frank Bolden would give us a question to ask. And so we’d just go along and I’d introduce myself to some people, and say: ‘I’m George Barbour, reporter from the Pittsburgh Courier and we’re doing an on-the-street survey, and we’d like very much to talk with you and find out your opinion about uh, what do you think about city government?’ And then the person would start talking away and Teenie would snap the picture, and we’d have about twelve people… I can’t think of being refused it one time—we always had a way of being able to get the confidence of people in this town. Yeah, it was very popular…”

Barbara Cooks wearing light colored coat and knit headband tied under chin, and Pittsburgh Courier reporter George Barbour standing on sidewalk at corner of Fifth Avenue and Liberty Avenue, Downtown, March 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Barbara Cooks wearing light colored coat and knit headband tied under chin, and Pittsburgh Courier reporter George Barbour standing on sidewalk at corner of Fifth Avenue and Liberty Avenue, Downtown, March 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Harris captured more than 3,500 people over two decades for this column. This street portraiture is possibly some of the most spontaneous work he made, yet much of it is quite striking for the way he stood quite close to his subjects and composed the frame. Unlike his studio clients or many of the subjects of his photojournalistic work, most of the people on the street were less likely to know Teenie personally. Their gaze is often direct, occasionally grumpy, frequently warm, and more often than not revealing that Harris had gained their trust.

Barbour interviewed Pittsburghers going about their daily lives Downtown and in other neighborhoods, with questions ranging from subjects that seem ridiculous from today’s perspective, to the city’s everlasting love of its sports teams, to events and issues still unresolved and pertinent now.

Jack Mager and James Embry holding books and standing on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, May 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Jack Mager and James Embry holding books and standing on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, May 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Mr. James Embry (Chauncey Street and Wylie Avenue) and Mr. Jack Mager (Sloan Street, McKees Rocks) were part of the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, May 24, 1958, pg. A1, with the question: “Do you approve of women bartenders?”

Mr. Embry’s answer reads: “No, and one reason is there is too much notoriety, too many risks, and too filthy a job for women, in fact, the way I look at it, if a woman has to go into a bar just as a customer, let her take a table and booth and be seated and served.”

Mr. Mager’s answer reads: “Absolutely not, and mainly because a guy who goes to the bar likes to talk men’s talk. With women around, you can’t talk as you would like to without offending the women.”

Portrait of Iola Palmer wearing floral sleeveless dress, standing in front of Jenkins Arcade, Liberty Avenue, Downtown, May 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Portrait of Iola Palmer wearing floral sleeveless dress, standing in front of Jenkins Arcade, Liberty Avenue, Downtown, May 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Iola Palmer, housewife (Independence Street), was part of the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, May 30, 1959, pg. A1, with the question: “Do you think single or married women make better teachers for elementary grades in public schools? Do you think that married men should teach in elementary grades?”

Her answer reads: “I believe that young single women would make the better teachers. This would open up more jobs for this class. In my opinion, a married woman should not have to work because she has her husband to support her. Frankly, I can’t say why, but I prefer ladies over men to teach elementary grades.”

Portrait of Ronald Anderson, wearing goatee, horizontal striped button down collared shirt, standing in front of light colored wall, left store window displaying female mannequin wearing light colored sleeveless polka dot dress with dark sheer overlay, store window on right displaying men's dress shoes with sign inscribed "...tom Tips...", 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Portrait of Ronald Anderson, wearing goatee, horizontal striped button down collared shirt, standing in front of light colored wall, left store window displaying female mannequin wearing light colored sleeveless polka dot dress with dark sheer overlay, store window on right displaying men’s dress shoes with sign inscribed “…tom Tips…”, 1958, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Ronald Anderson (Rivermont Drive) was part of the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, July 5, 1958, pg. 1, with the question: “What do you think is wrong with the Pittsburgh Pirates? Do you think that they are using their best ball players at all times?”

His answer reads: “The trouble seems to be something which the Pirates go through once a year. I think that if the men on the field were changed around, it would help. Some of the men on the bench could be playing and they probably could be doing as good a job as some of those on the field. Baker and Stevens are two of the men who could be used.”

Portrait of Elizabeth G. Henderson wearing dark double breasted coat, standing in front of Triangle Camera store window with sign advertising film projector for $39.50, November 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Portrait of Elizabeth G. Henderson wearing dark double breasted coat, standing in front of Triangle Camera store window with sign advertising film projector for $39.50, November 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Elizabeth G. Henderson, state field representative of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, was part of the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, November 28, 1959, pg. A1, with the question: “Do you think race relations are improved, are worse, or about the same today as compared to pre-World War II years?”

Her answer reads: “They are definitely improved, although there is much to be done.”

Portrait of Benjamin Lewis wearing cap and leather coat, standing in front of brick wall with stone railing, January 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Portrait of Benjamin Lewis wearing cap and leather coat, standing in front of brick wall with stone railing, January 1959, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

Benjamin Lewis, unemployed (Roberts Street), was part of the “Pittsburghers Speak Up” column published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, January 31, 1959, pg. 32, with the question: “Do you believe in capital punishment? If so, do you think that it should be imposed on convicted defendants under the age of 21?”

His answer reads: “No. I do not believe in capital punishment. And the reason is my religion. I’m a member of the Church of God in Christ. I believe that a person should be tried and sentenced for brutal crimes, if convicted, but the death penalty should not be inflicted. In my opinion, it is all right for a person to be sentenced to life in prison. And, in that way he will pay many times for his crime.”