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.
Much news attention has been given to Snowmageddon and the Polar Vortex, but in 1950, the Great Appalachian Storm dumped over 30 inches of snow during Thanksgiving weekend in Pittsburgh. The city was essentially shut down for days, the Allegheny County coroner warned those over the age of 45 against shoveling snow, and most of the newspapers ceased to print for a day or two. And Teenie Harris (who was used to being everywhere all of the time) was possibly stuck shoveling out as well.
I asked Charles A. Harris, Teenie Harris’s oldest son, what his dad thought of snow:
“I was very young when my father took me aside and talked about people who liked snow because it was so pretty. He really impressed upon me that though it may be pretty to look at from inside, there was always someone trying to go to work; many many accidents are caused by snow for people who don’t have a choice. In addition, there are ambulances that have to travel dangerous streets on their way to the hospital. In a word, he HATED SNOW!”
And it shows—out of over 70,000 negatives that we’ve cataloged so far, there are only around 120 that feature snow. Throughout his career, snow impeded his photojournalistic work…
…but also provided subjects for photographs…
But though he didn’t like the stuff, it’s no surprise that Harris still managed to capture some joyous images of those who did:
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
If you’re like me, by now you’re probably sick of all the heated art auction coverage, which makes it seem like contemporary art is out of reach for anybody but a zillionaire. (Just another way to suggest that art = elitist.) The perfect antidote is the Art Lending Collection at Braddock Carnegie Library, a joint initiative of the inspiring artist collective Transformazium and the Braddock Carnegie Library Association, and a complement to the 2013 Carnegie International. Right now, I have two wonderful works by International artists Lara Favaretto and Erika Verzutti in my home (see below). In fact, I’m in my second rotation of art from the ALC, having just returned a charming little work by Mladen Stilinović. All you need is an Allegheny County Library card, and you can take the works home for free for three weeks!
I’m lucky enough to work in a museum, so I get to see a lot of great art up close, but having art in your own home is a completely different experience, because it becomes embedded in your everyday life. And I have to admit it, I love touching the little pieces of Verzutti’s enigmatic sculpture—just because I can! The Art Lending Collection is a great place to hang out, too—good conversation and a lots to see, both art and books. I highly recommend it—just don’t take the sketch by Tezuka Architects, because I want to borrow it next.
Maureen Rolla, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh
“A city always contains more than any inhabitant can know, and a great city always makes the unknown and the possible spurs to the imagination.”—Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, A History of Walking
The best way to see Pittsburgh is by bike. And the absolute best way to see Pittsburgh’s public art is also by bike, in a decently sized (chatty) group and led by the curators of the 2013 Carnegie International (Thanks Tina and Daniel!). Luckily BikePGH, the ride organizer, picked a beautiful Saturday in November to ride 18 miles through the city’s parks, along its riverfronts, and through several neighborhoods starting in Oakland and ending in Millvale. The group, comprised of BikePGH members, met at the Carnegie Museum of Art, next to Phyllida Barlow’s TIP.
Our first stop was on the Carnegie Mellon University to see Mel Bochner’s (CMU alum) and Michael Van Valkenburgh’s Kraus Campo garden. The conceptual piece nestled between the University’s fine arts and business buildings incorporates text, architecture, and landscape architecture into an interactive experience.
Descending through Schenley Park, across the Hot Metal Bridge and traveling downstream along the South Side Trail, the group arrived at The Workers, the Industrial Arts Cooperative’s tribute to Pittsburgh’s industrial pedigree.
Downtown Pittsburgh was the site of our next two stops. Scott Burton’s Chairs for Six sit in the plaza of the BNY Mellon Center. Across town in the Cultural District, Katz Plaza hosts a collaboration featuring Louise Bourgeois, Daniel Urban Kiley, and Michael Graves.
A quick trip over the Andy Warhol Bridge led the group into the central North Side neighborhood to Randyland, where we were met by the gregarious Randy Gilson. Gilson regaled the group with his background and artistic philosophy—“I don’t know how to paint, but I paint! Nice!”
The ride’s final destination was St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Parish to view the Maxo Vanka murals. The murals extend far beyond the typical Roman Catholic iconography. A few years ago, I had read about the Vanka murals in David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries: “More unusual for a church are the political and antiwar aspects of the murals that echo the crucifixion—widows mourn over a soldier in a coffin containing a bleeding corpse, and crosses cover the hillside behind them. Another wall depicts corrupt justice: a figure in a gas mask holds scales on which the gold outweighs bread. Clearly World War I had a big effect on Maxo.”
As I said earlier, there is no better way to see a city and its public art than biking, and Pittsburgh is taking great strides in becoming a world-class biking community. Currently there are over 20 miles of riverfront trails along the Monongahela River, Allegheny River, and mighty Ohio River. Over the past several years, the city has added over 70 miles of on-street facilities that connect cyclists to the many vibrant business districts scattered throughout the city. With the development of BikePGH’s Better Bikeways Vision and the city’s MOVEPGH (transportation plan), cyclists can expect bigger and better toys within the next few years.
With that said, 2014 is expected to be a watershed year for the city’s biking community as Pittsburgh launches a bike share system and hosts Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2014, one of the pre-eminent active transportation conferences in the world. The bike share system will introduce 500 rentable bicycles onto Pittsburgh’s streets, providing cheap, convenient, and fun transportation for short trips. Pro Walk/Pro Bike will bring over 1,000 active transportation advocates, engineers, architects, planners, elected officials, and vendors to Downtown Pittsburgh in September 2014. It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase Pittsburgh’s improvements and learn from the global leaders in urban transportation design. Learn more about the Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2014 conference.
Stephen Patchan, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, City of Pittsburgh