Who Was Teenie Harris?

Video for exhibition at Great North Museum & Carnegie Museum of Art

Roots and Wings was honoured to be asked to produce a video for the forthcoming exhibition, Not As It Was Written, opening at the Great North Museum in Newcastle and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later this year. The exhibition showcases the work of photographer and notable Pittsburgher Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908 – 1998). Harris extensively documented black life in Pittsburgh and in particular the Hill District, a vibrant collection of neighbourhoods and cultural centre of African-American life. Between 1950 and 1990 the Hill District was cynically carved up and sold off for ‘redevelopment’, displacing more than 38,000 residents and resulting in huge economic decline.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Newcastle University senior lecturer in U.S. History Benjamin Houston, and features a fantastic selection of Teenie’s photographs alongside audio recordings of people who lived and worked in the Hill District during the latter half of the twentieth century. The photos and accompanying audio provide a fascinating insight into black life in Pittsburgh during this socially and economically tumultuous time, and the exhibition raises interesting questions about how racial inequalities continue to fuel social injustice both in the U.S and here in the U.K. to this day.

The exhibition is being run as part of Freedom City, a program of events designed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Rev Dr Martin Luther King’s 1967 visit to Newcastle University to receive an honorary doctorate. This was to prove his last trip outside the U.S. prior to his assassination on 4th April 1968.

Not As It Was Written will be opening on July 31st at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and at the Great North Museum: Hancock in October!