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Tue, 10.27.1908

Charles “Teenie” Harris, Photographer born

Charles T. Harris

This date in 1908, celebrates the birth of Charles ("Teenie") Harris.  He was a Black photographer.

Charles Harris was the youngest son of William A. and Ella Mae "Olga" Taliaferro Harris who lived in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, The family owned the Masio Hotel on Wylie Avenue.  Young Harris attended Watt School, now the Robert L. Vann School, and after graduating, he worked as a chauffeur and mechanic with brother William "Woogie" Harris until 1938.  Woogie also owned the Crystal Barber Shop on Wylie Avenue and was involved in the "numbers" or "policy" lottery.

In the late 1920s, Harris became a founding member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, a then sandlot baseball team. He even played for them until 1930, when the Crawfords entered the Negro Leagues. During that time, in 1929, Harris bought his first professional camera with money from his brother. He began taking photographs of local and visiting celebrities for Washington-based Flash! Magazine.  It was during this time he earned the nickname "One Shot."

Not long after this, he married Ruth M. Butler; they had one son, Charles A. Harris, but they separated around 1932. Four years later, Harris became a freelance photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the country's largest circulation Black newspapers.  In 1938, he opened a photographic studio in Pittsburgh's Hill District at 2128 Center Avenue. In 1944, he married Elsa L. Elliott and had four children: Ira Vann Harris, Lionel L. Harris, Crystal Harris, and Cheryl A. Harris.

In 1953, he closed his studio but did not retire from the Pittsburgh Courier until 1975. In 1986, he signed a management agreement with Dennis Morgan, Pittsburgh artist, and entrepreneur, for his photographic works.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, the dapper photographer whose thousands of images captured celebrities and chronicled decades of Black life in Pittsburgh, died June 12, 1998, at the home where he had lived for most of his life.  Harris' archive is housed in the African Studies Department of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Carnegie Museum of Art purchased 27 vintage Harris prints from the Pittsburgh Courier Photographic Archive for its exhibition "Pittsburgh Revealed," and accepted the gift of approximately 3500 vintage prints.

To Become a Photographer

Reference:

CMOA.org

The Atlantic.com

NMAAHC.si.edu

Larry Glasco, Associate Professor,
Department of History,
University of Pittsburgh

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