Category Archives: Teenie Harris

Hearing Dr. King’s Speech


August 28, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which he prophetically described as the event that “will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”

Many Pittsburghers traveled to the demonstration in Washington D.C. that day, including Sala Udin, who organized a bus full of students on behalf of the NAACP Youth Council of Staten Island, New York (where he was in high school at the time) to attend the historic event.  He described that day during an interview conducted by the staff of the Teenie Harris Archive in 2011:

“We arrived early in the morning, and as the August sun in Washington D.C. got hotter and hotter and hotter, and the day went on, and speaker after speaker… and everybody was really waitin’ for the main keynote speaker of the day, was a man named Dr. King. And when he came out, a quarter of a million people just fell completely silent, and he spoke about what was happening to civil rights workers and people who lived in the south where he had come to Washington D.C. from. And he came with a message to tell Washington that they had given black folks a bad check, and he came to make that check good. I’d never heard anybody speak like that, except maybe Malcolm, in Harlem. And I said to myself, standing right there on the mall in that hot sun, sweatin’ – I said I want to join whatever it is he’s doing – I want to be one of them. And eighteen months later, I was on a bus headed for Mississippi, having been recruited by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and SNCC to come to Mississippi to work on voter registration, integrating schools and lunch counters, and so I had the opportunity to become a Freedom Rider. So that’s how I got involved.”

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Loran Mann, Charles Harris, Matthew Moore, and Tom McGarrity at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966

Three years after this influential event, in November of 1966, Dr. King spoke in Pittsburgh where according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he “drew the largest turnout of students ever to hear a visiting speaker” at the University of Pittsburgh’s student union.  Teenie Harris captured several images of the press conference that followed Dr. King’s speech for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seated behind table with microphone, with Charles Harris and Matthew Moore behind him, at press conference, University of Pittsburgh, November 1966

Hear the full version of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

What Was Lincoln Really Like?


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David Gilmour Blythe, Abraham Lincoln, Rail Splitter, 1860, oil on canvas, Gift of Paul Mellon, 63.19
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David Gilmour Blythe, Abraham Lincoln Writing the Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, oil on canvas, Museum purchase: gift of Mr. and Mrs. John F. Walton, 58.56.2

This weekend marks the opening of Lincoln, a film examining the last months of the president’s life. If you haven’t yet seen the newly renovated Scaife Galleries here at the museum, we currently have four portrayals of this great American figure on view. Two by Lincoln’s contemporary David Gilmour Blythe were painted during the heat of Lincoln’s campaign for the presidency in 1860 and in the aftermath of his famous Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 (above). They depict Lincoln as his contemporaries knew him: an ambitious young politician surrounded by symbols of his messy fight for the Republican presidential nomination, and then in his notoriously disorganized White House office, in shirt sleeves and slippers as he drafts the document that would define his presidency. Blythe died in 1865, the year of Lincoln’s assassination.

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Abraham Lincoln: The Man, 1884–1887, bronze, Gift of Charles J. Rosenbloom, 43.8

The Museum’s other portraits reflect the transformation of Lincoln into a national hero and paragon of virtue following his death. Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ bronze Standing Lincoln is a small scale version of a monument erected in Chicago in 1887. The contrast with Blythe’s casual portraits could not be greater—the formal attire, dignified posture, and oversized chair decorated with a symbolic eagle represent Lincoln’s moral character and his place in American history. The enduring power of this portrait is suggested by Teenie Harris’ image of two students in Pittsburgh’s Rochester High School in 1950, carefully posed with a photograph of the Chicago monument. This work is not currently on view in the galleries, but here it is:

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Ray Whittington and Gloria Puryear, at drinking fountain, with picture of Abraham Lincoln above, in Rochester High School, December 1950, photographic negative, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.23961.

As the president who ended slavery, Lincoln had special significance for African American painter Horace Pippin, who ranked him with Jesus Christ and John Brown as one of the three greatest men in history. Pippin chose to depict a story from Lincoln’s youth that neatly encapsulates his moral and political virtue. He shows the young Lincoln in his garret late at night, tucking away a borrowed book about George Washington which he has been reading by candlelight. When the book was ruined by rain, “Honest Abe” repaid its owner with hours of free labor.

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Horace Pippin, Abe Lincoln’s First Book (detail), 1944, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James L. Winokur, 68.20

Lincoln continues to fascinate us as an exemplar of personal virtue and political courage, especially when times are hard. To what extent does the new film Lincoln embody the concerns and desires of the 21st century—or perpetuate the stories, legends, and myths found in the art of Blythe, Saint-Gaudens, and Pippin? Send your comments to lippincottl@carnegiemuseums.org, and we’ll post some responses on our blog and Facebook page—we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Guest Blogger: Maxine Gordon


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Charles “Teenie” Harris, 1908–1998, Billy Eckstine orchestra performing on stage, seen from above, including Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Lucky Thompson, Charlie Parker, Bob “Junior” Williams, Leo Parker, Charlie Rouse, Dizzy Gillespie, Marion “Boonie” Hazel, Howard McGhee, Howard Scott, Jerry Valentine, Taswell Baird, Linton Garner, Art Blakey, and Connie Wainwright, in Aragon Ballroom, August 1944

When I was in Paris in October, 2009, I went to a fabulous exhibit on Miles Davis, We Want Miles, at the Cité de la Musique. The first room of the exhibit featured photos of Davis’s early career and the jazz scene at the time, including a photo of the Billy Eckstine band. The caption read: “Photographer Unknown, Billy Eckstine Band, St. Louis, Missouri.”  But I knew this caption was wrong. I had previously visited Carnegie Museum of Art to look at all of the photos from the Teenie Harris Archive featuring the Billy Eckstine band to find some images of Dexter Gordon, the jazz tenor saxophonist (and my late husband—I looked at all the photos and loved them all!). This was clearly a Teenie Harris photo, and I knew it was in Pittsburgh because I remembered the dress that Sarah Vaughan was wearing.

I emailed the curator, Vincent Bessières, to let him know about the mistake. “Photographer Unknown” simply was not good enough! He was very grateful, contacted Carnegie Museum of Art to order a better print, and corrected the caption.  When the exhibit moved to Montreal and I went there to see it, I saw a thank you to me in the catalogue for catching the error. We historians love it when we can fix a mistake like that, and we especially like it when we can give credit to Teenie Harris because he deserves our thanks for preserving the legacies he captured over the years.

MAXINE GORDON is a jazz archivist, researcher, and writer, and is currently working on the biography of her late husband, Dexter Gordon, which will include interviews, photos, and letters. She is Senior Interviewer and Jazz Researcher for the Bronx African American History Project, Fordham University (Bronx, NY) and Director of the Oral History Project, Women Who Listen: An Oral History Project with Women Jazz Fans.

 

 

Guest Blogger: Kelli Stevens Kane


Part of the Family

Okay, I give up. I’m a poet, playwright, and oral historian who’s protected her personal privacy like a museum guard protects the art on kindergarten-field-trip day. I’ve managed to somehow keep my public life separate from my private life. Yeah, I’m finally on Facebook—but I only talk about stuff related to writing and performance. And when I first created an account, I used an alias so I could participate while still hiding out! The idea of people posting photos of me or my family on the internet freaked me out completely.

Time to get over that! When Cave Canem contacted me to participate in a poetry reading inspired by Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story, they didn’t know what they were asking of me, but I knew I had nowhere to hide. In that spirit, through Teenie’s lens, let me introduce you to…

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my dad, Eugene Stevens (pictured on the left, from August 1945, Exhibition No. 301)…

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…my uncle, Tim Stevens (pictured on the right, from 1972, Exhibition No. 967)…

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…and my aunt, Marlene Stevens McEnheimer (pictured in the doorway, from December 4, 1960, Exhibition No. 816).

The photo above shows the opening of Jones Funeral Home, where my grandmother, aka “Big George,” used to take us to visit the deceased, regardless of whether she knew them or not. This subject was so mesmerizing to me that it inspired me to interview about thirty people who knew her so I could find out more. The result, my oral history manuscript, Big George’s Wylie Avenue, sheds light on the workings of family and community in The Hill during its heyday.

Because these three people remembered Teenie so fondly and repeatedly urged me to contact him, one of the people I interviewed for Big George’s Wylie Avenue was Teenie himself. I didn’t realize at the time that all my subsequent literary work would be in conversation with his work.

So there you have it! Teenie’s work got me out of my comfort zone and gave me a chance to show you who I am and where I come from. Not only do I not regret it, I’m actually feeling pretty good about this! Despite being squeamish about family photos on the internet, there’s no denying that I’m proud to be descended from the people in these pictures, and I’m proud that my voice is descended from their voices.

Teenie also photographed so many friends of my family that, to me, Teenie Harris, Photographer: an American Story actually feels more like an extended family album than an exhibit. And I think it will to you too—even if you’re not directly related. Because Teenie’s work has the potential to make anyone, anywhere, feel like part of the family. His eye shows us the truth—we are related, all of us. If you haven’t seen his work yet, go. And if you’ve already seen it, go again. You won’t regret it.

KELLI STEVENS KANE is a poet, playwright, and oral historian whose grandparents were friends of Teenie Harris. In fact Teenie and her grandfather, Jasper Stevens, both played on the Pittsburgh Crawfords and are pictured together on the cover of Rob Ruck’s Sandlot Seasons. Kane’s literary works—an oral history manuscript, Big George’s Wylie Avenue; a play, I Never Laughed So Much at a Funeral; and a poetry manuscript, Hallelujah Science—represent four generations in her family, all rooted in the world that Teenie documented. Kane is also an August Wilson Center Fellow and the recipient of an Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Grant. For more information about her upcoming readings and performances, visit www.kellistevenskane.com.

Related Event: Don’t miss your chance to hear Kelli read some of her work, along with poets Terrance Hayes and Yona Harvey, this Thursday, March 29, at the Cave Canem Poetry Reading.

Teenie Harris Archive Stories: Part 4


Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story closes April 7—don’t miss this chance to see some of Teenie’s photographs up close and share your own stories!

Here are two more of the recent updates we’ve made to the Teenie Harris Archive based on public feedback and further research on these important photographs. If you’d like to share more information about the people, places, or events in these images, or any of the nearly 1,000 photographs featured in the exhibition, you can send us an email at CMA-ArchiveProject@carnegiemuseums.org, or simply fill out one of the forms available in the exhibition.

The Woman on the Buick

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Doris Clark seated on Buick car with steel mill in background, Clairton, c. 1945 (Exhibition No. 391)

When we chose this image to be included in “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story,” we were struck not only by the composition of the image, but by the distillation of many of the themes in the country at the time – the shiny American-made car in the foreground, the beautiful woman (who could have been used for inspiration for the GIs), the swimming pool that represented a degree of leisure for more classes, and the busy steel mill in the distance.  But we didn’t know who she was or where it was taken.

After combing the archives for other photographs of her or the location, we found her again with a group of friends:

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Group portrait of men and women, including Doris Clark standing ninth from left, and Lois Weaver standing fifth from right, posed outdoors near stone gate, Clairton, c. 1945

And in an incredible instance of serendipity, we were just about to interview Lois Weaver Watson who was one of those friends who appeared in the picture.  Mrs. Watson finally named “the woman on the Buick” as Doris Clark Moody, and with the new name in hand, we searched the online archives of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, and learned more about her.

Doris Christine Clark was born February 22, c. 1928, in Pittsburgh, to Doris and Henry Clark.  Her father died young, and her mother was later re-married to Cicero Griffith, then after his death, to former Negro League baseball player Ralph Mellix.

In the early 1940s, along with her friend Lois Weaver, she was in the dance corps of the National Negro Opera Company and performed in La Traviata.  Doris populated the gossip and society columns in the mid-1940s with reports of the parties she attended and her participation in local fashion shows.  In 1945, she graduated from Schenley High School.  In his “Junior Social Whirl” column on September 15, 1945, Mozelle Thompson in a farewell address upon leaving Pittsburgh to study art in New York stated: “we’ll remember Doris Clark’s house, which was the second home for the Smart Young Set.”

She attended West Virginia State College where she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and graduated in 1951. Shortly thereafter, she took her first teaching job in North Carolina, where she taught in a Jim Crow-era five room school with outhouses and an outdoor water pump.  In 1953, she returned to Pittsburgh and began a long career as a teacher and librarian in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In 1956 she married Nathan Brown Jr., and began to participate in “Alpha Wives” activities (a club for women whose husbands were members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity).  She continued with her education and received a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969.

At some point before 1975, she married Willis Moody and gained stepsons, Wayne and Willis Moody Jr.  She retired from the Pittsburgh Public Schools in 1982, and hundreds of family and friends attended a luncheon party in her honor at the Park Schenley restaurant in Oakland.

Doris Clark Moody passed away on January 29, 2000, and was buried in Homewood Cemetery.