Teenie Harris Photographs: Service and Sacrifice

January 27–May 28, 2018

Soldier sitting on duffle-bag with chin in hand and a first-aid flag posted nearby 

“We return from fighting. We return fighting.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

In 1770, Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first person to die in the pursuit of American independence. Since then, countless black men and women have served in the military, defending a nation that often failed to defend them. Indeed, African Americans fought and died abroad for a country that marginalized them at home with segregation and Jim Crow laws.

Black soldiers matter, and their unique experiences frame the conversation of this exhibition. During the 1940s, Charles “Teenie” Harris photographed over 1,500 soldiers in his studio, located on Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh's Hill District; these portraits were his contribution to the war effort. As a photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, Harris also captured the realities points of pride and points of sorrow—of “separate but equal” service to one’s country.

Here we balance three voices, each with unique insights. Teenie Harris, the photographer observing and documenting African American life. Eugene Boyer Jr., a veteran of World War II and Korea. Lance Woods, 60 years Boyer’s junior, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of their perspectives is woven into a shared history.

This exhibition is organized by Dominique Luster, Teenie Harris Archivist. Every project at Carnegie Museum of Art reflects the talents of many, including colleagues in Advancement and Community Engagement; Art Preparation and Installation; Conservation; Curatorial; Education; Exhibitions; Facilities, Planning, and Operations; Marketing; Publishing; Registration; and Visitor Services.

Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998) photographed Pittsburgh’s African American community from ca. 1935 to ca. 1975. His archive of nearly 80,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today. Purchased by Carnegie Museum of Art in 2001, the Teenie Harris Archive was established to preserve Harris’s important photographic work for future generations. For more information, visit teenie.cmoa.org. You can also read essays inspired by the social, cultural, and political content of Harris’s photographs at storyboard.cmoa.org.