Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives

October 16, 2014April 26, 2015


Civil rights in the 1960s was far different from when I was born in 1923. As a child, I was taught to avoid places where I was likely to face discrimination. When I was 15 years old, I participated in my first protest demonstration. Years later, here in Pittsburgh, I helped organize many demonstrations as a member of the Pittsburgh NAACP. These protests included not only black people but also many of our white friends who realized that there is not justice if not for all. 

—From the curator’s statement, Alma Speed Fox 

Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives offers an insider’s view of the organizing meetings, rallies, and luminaries that carried forward the struggle for civil rights in Pittsburgh and on the national stage. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the exhibition features 25 photographs selected from the extraordinary collection of the Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art. This selection of images, which Charles “Teenie” Harris made between 1939 and 1975, attest to his sympathy for the cause and his understanding of its importance to Pittsburgh.

Alma Speed Fox, a veteran of the Pittsburgh movement, and K. Chase Patterson, representing a new generation of activists, serve as guest curators, selecting the works for the exhibition, and sharing their insights into their meaning at the time and their significance for the present. As a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, a national black newspaper, Teenie Harris documented not only momentous events and flashpoints, but the day-to-day activities of organizations like the NAACP, the Urban League, the Black Panther Party, and dozens of church congregations. He was, according to Fox, everywhere. The Teenie Harris Archive attests to this, containing at least 2,000 images relating to the struggle for civil rights in Pittsburgh, and may yet uncover more when archivists scan and document its collection of negatives from the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Read selections from the Teenie Harris Essay Series:
New Life in a Time of Protest and Heartache
The Missing Made Visible: In the Footsteps of Teenie Harris

Beyond Urban Renewal: Fighting for the Future of Pittsburgh's Hill District
View from the Hill: A Tale of Black Pittsburgh's Complicated Legacy
The Chronicle of Alma Speed Fox
Teenie Harris: The Lens That Rescued the Legacy 

For more background and historical context, all of the images featured in Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives can also be viewed in our online collection.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.