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Jesse Mathews Vann
*Jesse Mathews Vann was born on this date in 1885. She was a Black teacher and newspaper publisher.
She was born Jessie Ellen Matthews in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. After finishing college, she began a career in classroom education. In 1908 she met Robert Lee Vann when he was a law student and she was a kindergarten teacher. They married in 1910, and shortly after that, he went into journalism, launching the Pittsburgh Courier.
When Robert died in 1940, Jessie Vann inherited the Courier and served as publisher for 23 years. Her success at the paper made her one of the wealthiest black women of the World War II era, with the paper grossing about $2 million a year by 1945. Under Vann's direction, the Courier circulated information about the economic opportunities newly available to blacks during the war; later, the paper advocated for the work of the American Civil Rights movement.
Vann also served on many civic boards, including the Pittsburgh chapters of the NAACP and the Urban League, the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Pennsylvania governor's Committee on Industrial Race Relations, and President Dwight Eisenhower's International Development Advisory Board. In 1956 and 1960, she was an alternate delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention.
The Haitian government awarded her the Haitian Legion of Merit and Honor, accompanied by a medal and scroll. As the wartime economic boom ebbed, the paper declined financially, and board members blamed Vann's management. She retired in 1963, though improving her leadership proved difficult, and the board sold the paper to the Chicago Defender in 1965. Jesse Mathews Vann, owner, and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, from 1940 to 1963, died on June 7, 1967.