This photo comes from a very large archive of work by Charles “Teenie” Harris, housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburg. Harris was a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, a major African American newspaper in the mid twentieth century. His newspaper photos offer a wonderful range of topics—church functions, school plays, family celebrations, and political gatherings. In addition, Harris had his own business and made portraits, wedding photos, and shots for local businesses. His extensive archive offers a detailed look at Black Pittsburgh life in all its complexity.
Most likely the shot above was taken for the newspaper, featuring a gathering of a Black women’s club. We can’t see much of their clothing, but their hats are after all the main event. Several are the small flowered varieties I remember my grandmother wearing in the fifties. A few, however, look more like the pillbox style of the sixties, showing that these women kept up with current styles. And then there is the hat that looks like an upside down flower pot–a category all its own. Had the woman in the center won the prize for the most original creation?