ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT...
I've been looking through some of the digitized images available at the Library of Congress as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey.
This vast archive documents notable achievements in architecture, engineering and landscape design in the United States, ranging from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Its been going since the early 1930s - part of a set of cooperative agreements between the National Parks Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector - and to date has produced more than half-a-million drawings, photographs, and written histories.
Included in this eye-watering collection is a series of photographs of the former Afro-American publishing plant at 628 N. Eutaw Street in Baltimore. There is some conflicting data on exactly when the paper vacated the property, but to the best of my knowledge it was somewhere between 1990 and 1993. The date at which these images were taken is also unclear, although I would guess it was pretty soon after the newspaper left.
A big part of my interest in the relationship between the Black Press and the built environment is what happens to Black media buildings after Black media leaves, and these images contain their own story - of economic decline and the Black press' modern struggles, but also of a proud history and rich legacy stretching back over 125 years.
So far as I can tell from looking on Google Maps it appears that the main building no longer exists, leaving images such as these the last memory of a Black publishing plant which was once once of the largest in the nation.
I've been spending some time poring through the Teenie Harris photograph archives at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. If you haven't heard of Charles "Teenie" Harris, he was a prolific photographer of Pittsburgh's African American communities between the 1930s and the 1970s.
Charles "Teenie" Harris, holding camera and standing on sidewalk, circa 1938. Carnegie Museum of Art
Harris' vast archives, currently housed at the Carnegie Museum, offer up "one of the most detailed and intimate records of the Black urban experience known today." Following the archive's purchase in 2001, the Museum has scanned more than 60,000 images, and a good chunk of these have been catalogued and are available to look at online.
If you want a short primer, you can listen to the NPR story below, which discusses Harris' work and his photographic legacy.
The majority of Harris' professional career was spent working as a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, and the newspaper's offices feature prominently in many of Harris' images. I've included a few choice images below, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day running and everyday comings and goings of a mid-century Black newspaper plant. Treat yourself and have a look through the Harris collections yourself via the Carnegie Museum's online catalogue.
Toki Schalk Johnson posing on desk in Pittsburgh Courier office, c.1940-1950. Carnegie Museum of Art
Joe Louis practicing golf putting in Pittsburgh Courier office, January 1946. Carnegie Museum of Art
Photographer Gordon Parks in Pittsburgh Courier printing plant, September 1946. Carnegie Museum of Art
More details about the inside of the redeveloped Ebony/Jet building at 820 South Michigan Avenue have started to come out following its transformation into condominiums last year. The videos below offer brief tours of one and two-bedroom condos which are now available in addition to studio apartments.
The interiors of the building are completely unrecognisable from the heydey as the epicenter of the Johnson Publishing empire following the building's opening during the early 1970s. Its also disappointing to hear that the building's history is completely ignored in these video tours.