Joe W. Trotter is Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice, head of the history department, and director of the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of numerous books, including The African American Experience and River Jordan: African American Urban Life in the Ohio Valley.
Published in cooperation with Carnegie Museum of Art
With an introduction by Deborah Willis
The famous faces of Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and John F. Kennedy appear among the nearly eighty thousand photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998). But it’s in the images of other, ordinary people and neighborhoods that Harris shows us a city and an era teeming with energy, culture, friendship, and family. In jazz clubs, Little League games, beauty contests, church functions, boxing matches, political events, protest marches, and everyday scenes, Teenie Harris captured the essence of African American life in Pittsburgh.
Harris’s career began as America emerged from the Great Depression and ended after the civil rights movement. As a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s most influential black newspapers, Teenie hit the streets to record historic events and the people who lived them. The archive of Harris’s photography, in the permanent collection of Carnegie Museum of Art, represents one of the most important documentations of twentieth-century African Americans and their communities. Today, even as Teenie Harris’s photography stands alongside that of Harlem’s famed James VanDerZee, his work in Pittsburgh’s Hill District surpasses that of all other photographers in its breadth and rich portrayal of black urban America.
African Americans from Pittsburgh have a long and distinctive history of contributions to the cultural, political, and social evolution of the United States. From jazz legend Earl Fatha Hines to playwright August Wilson, from labor protests in the 1950s to the Black Power movement of the late 1960s, Pittsburgh has been a force for change in American race and class relations.
Race and Renaissance presents the first history of African American life in Pittsburgh after World War II. It examines the origins and significance of the second Great Migration, the persistence of Jim Crow into the postwar years, the second ghetto, the contemporary urban crisis, the civil rights and Black Power movements, and the Million Man and Million Woman marches, among other topics.
In recreating this period, Trotter and Day draw not only from newspaper articles and other primary and secondary sources, but also from oral histories. These include interviews with African Americans who lived in Pittsburgh during the postwar era, uncovering firsthand accounts of what life was truly like during this transformative epoch in urban history.
In these ways, Race and Renaissance illuminates how African Americans arrived at their present moment in history. It also links movements for change to larger global issues: civil rights with the Vietnam War; affirmative action with the movement against South African apartheid. As such, the study draws on both sociology and urban studies to deepen our understanding of the lives of urban blacks.