These Photos Capture the Lives of African American Soldiers who Served During World War IIHistorians in the News
tags: photography, African American history, World War 2
Teenie Harris knew everyone, and everyone knew him.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Charles “Teenie” Harris worked as a photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most influential black newspapers of the 20th century, capturing the everyday experience of African American life in the Steel City. His photographs depicted a black urban community that, despite the segregationist policies and racist attitudes of mid-century America, was innovative, thriving and proud. (His camera is in the collections of the Smithonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.)
During World War II, African Americans from Pittsburgh and all around the country fought and died abroad even as they were marginalized at home. Through his photography, Harris captured the realities—points of pride and points of sorrow—of a “separate but equal” service to one’s country, through his coverage of the Double Victory campaign, a nationwide effort launched by the Courier to enlist African Americans to fight for their country and their rights at home.
Harris also photographed over 1,500 soldiers in his studio, located on Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District; these portraits were a part of his contribution to the war effort. His images preserve the legacy of black patriotism during a time of visible discrimination.
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