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Courier storefront(around 1930)
*On this date, we celebrate the founding of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper in 1910.
For several decades the Courier was among the most influential African American Newspapers in the United States. Founded by Edwin Nathaniel Harlston, a security guard with an interest in literature, the weekly publication was guided to prominence by editor Robert L. Vann, an attorney, and friend of Harlston’s. Within that same year, Harlston had resigned from the ownership group. The Black population of Pittsburgh was about 25,000 when the first issue of the Courier hit the streets.
The only news about Blacks before then was a segregated section of the Pittsburgh Press called Afro-American News. The section was sensationalized and contained only lucid and criminal aspects of Black life. By the 1920s, the Courier had a circulation of nearly 55,000. One of the keys to this success was Vann’s hiring of well-known journalist George Schuyler, who wrote his View and Reviews column and a yearlong tour of the south by him to write a series of on-the-road observations. Another positive business decision was made in 1929 when the Courier brought its own printing and production plant. This made a huge revenue difference, especially during the Great Depression.
It was also during the 1930s when the Courier began one of its first major campaigns as a national opinion leader for Blacks. The subject was the popular radio show “Amos N Andy.” The newspaper attacked the racial stereotypes with a drive to obtain one million signatures on a petition to remove it from the airwaves. Though the effort fell short, it did establish the weekly as a force of conscience in the Black community. Vann died in 1940, and his wife Jesse E. Mathews succeeded him as publisher. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Courier had a steady decline in circulation, and in 1966 the Sengstacke Group bought it. They continued the publication as the New Pittsburgh Courier.