By: Nu Yang
Historic black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier was honored for its 100th anniversary with a museum exhibit at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. The exhibit opened last year and ended in June.
The Courier, once known as the largest and most influential black weekly newspaper distributed in the U.S., began publication in 1910. The recent exhibit included the oldest-known existing copy from Nov. 5, 1910.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc., wrote in The Miami Herald, “Early editions (of the Courier) 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.”
Throughout its history, the Courier fought against segregation on its pages. Fields said, “One of the Courier’s sportswriters, Wendell Smith, used his column to denounce Major League Baseball’s then-policy of excluding blacks. Smith’s efforts were a contributing factor when Jackie Robinson broke ‘the color barrier’ and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.”
According to Fields, the Courier partnered with a group called the Pullman Porters, a network of black train workers who traveled to the South, where black newspapers were usually banned or destroyed. With the Stop and Drop campaign, Fields said whenever a train stopped, “A bundle of papers were dropped and sold throughout the segregated regions.”
By 1948, the weekly national circulation was 450,000, and the paper had 400 employees in 14 cities. The paper was sold to the Chicago Defender in 1965, but another era soon began when the New Pittsburgh Courier was created a year later. The paper continues to publish every Wednesday with the same mission it championed a century ago.