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ONE SHOT: THE LIFE AND WORK OF TEENIE HARRIS
ONE SHOT: THE LIFE AND WORK OF TEENIE HARRIS Bookmark and Share

56 minutes, 2001
Producer: Kenneth Love, Narrator: Roscoe Lee Browne
Photo credit: Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles ?Teenie? Harris Archive*
ABOUT THE FILM
CRITICAL COMMENT
"This has got to be by far the largest documentation of African American urban life in existence anywhere."
Laurence Glasco, University of Pittsburgh
"To me, this guy was a genius. When people start to understand his achievement, they'll be knocked out."
Stanley Nelson, filmmaker, The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords
"Entertaining and informative. An outstanding asset to programs in African-American studies, Pennsylvania history, and photography for schools and libraries throughout the country."
School Library Journal
"An engaging documentary about a national treasure who captured priceless images recounting the 20th century black experience, this is recommended."
Video Librarian

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THE BLACK PRESS: SOLDIERS WITHOUT SWORDS



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Charles "Teenie" Harris loved taking pictures, and he did so with such ease he was given the nickname "One Shot." From 1931-1975, the Pittsburgh Courier photographer combed the streets of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, snapping shots of African American life - everything from sports to jazz to politics and, most of all, everyday life.

Harris, who died in 1998 at age 89, left behind a valuable legacy. Teenie's photographs show the camaraderie, the friendship, and the spirit of community that the mainstream press simply ignored. The film follows Harris's life through his work as one of the "soldiers" of the black press.

In its heyday, from 1930 to roughly 1960, the Pittsburgh Courier was the preeminent national newspaper for African Americans. It was the Pittsburgh Courier that turned World War II into a double campaign for many African Americans, as the paper reported the sufferings and achievements of black soldiers, and at the same time, demanded that the United States end racial segregation and discrimination. The "Double V" campaign - victory over fascism in Europe and racism at home - spearheaded by the Pittsburgh Courier contributed to the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement to come. With its many editions all over the country, the paper served as an advocate for African Americans and it served to unite African American communities.

The documentary blends the photographer's images of the city and its cast of famous and infamous characters with context provided in the narration by actor Roscoe Lee Browne along with the commentary of former Courier staffers, historians, and others, including the aged Harris himself. Harris' images, naturally, are key to the film. Harris never threw one of his 80,000 negatives away. The film is a photographic album of beautiful black and white prints from an era of African American life in danger of being forgotten. Unique in many ways, photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris was not alone. He was a contemporary of Gordon Parks, who was the first black photographer who traveled extensively beyond his own community while on assignment. But as a member of the community where he worked, Harris portrayed what he knew. With his lens, through his eyes, viewers see handsome young men of color dressed in fashionable suits, a coyly confident young woman dancing, star-gazing autograph seekers brimming with admiration, and a soda-jerk serving up his charming pride. Viewers are treated to a line-up of kids cooling themselves in an open hydrant, a very junior boxer proud of the gloves that outsize his own head, a young crossing guard fully in control of his post.

Teenie Harris' images captured a beautiful, vibrant social life in which people were proud and driven and celebrated life in spite of the barriers of racism. In the face of expanding multi-media choices for consumers and the decline and destruction of once all-black communities, they serve as a reminder of the importance of self-representation, community beacons and advocates.

Images courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Heinz Family Fund
Copyright 2004 Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles ?Teenie? Harris Archive

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