BY DOROTHY JENKINS FIELDS
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Pioneers who remember The Pittsburgh Courier know that it was once the largest and most influential black weekly newspaper distributed throughout the United States, Miami included. To commemorate the Courier’s 100th anniversary, the Senator John Heinz History Center mounted an exhibit entitled, “America’s Best Weekly: A Century of the Pittsburgh Courier.” An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the Heinz Center, the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, is in Pittsburgh, where the Courier began publication in 1910.
The exhibit, which opened February 2011 and continues until June 2, 2012, provides an historical account of the newspaper’s reach and impact throughout the nation over the past century.
The History Center’s Curator of African American Collections and president of the Association of African American Museums, Samuel W. Black, spent several hundred hours collecting, researching and interpreting the evidence that documents the Courier’s history. Three months ago, I had the opportunity to tour the gallery with him. Of special note is the evolution of The Pittsburgh Courier, with new scholarship related to co-editors Edward N. Harleston and Robert L. Vann.
Early editions began protesting racial segregation by custom and law, including slum conditions where black people were forced to live, in Pittsburgh and throughout the nation. Simultaneously the Courier encouraged black people to empower themselves economically and politically.