Press Correspondents and Journalists

What journalist used the Pittsburgh Courier as an advocate for social change for African Americans?

Activist Robert Lee Vann (1887–1940) used the newspaper that he edited, the Pittsburgh Courier, as an advocate for social change for African Americans. Born in North Carolina, he studied for a while at Virginia Union University in Richmond and became disturbed over deteriorating racial conditions in the South. He was affected by Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up from Slavery, which helped to shape his ideas on racial pride and economic self-help for his race. Vann relocated to Pittsburgh where he continued his studies. After completing his law degree, he became one of only five black attorneys in Pittsburgh. By 1910 he was editor of the Pittsburgh Courier. He used the paper to crusade for improvement in areas of housing, health, education, employment, crime, and other issues that affected African Americans. Vann urged blacks to form their own financial institutions. He wanted more blacks to become medical doctors and pleaded for a hospital to serve the needs of the black community. The crafty journalist also worked to dispel negative images of blacks that the white press had promoted. He provided blacks with positive news on the local community—facts that the mainstream presses disregarded. The new black immigrants from the South were able to use the Courier to read news about their home states. His work with the Courier demonstrated his continuing interest in promoting racial pride.


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