By Khloe Quill
The Howard Center For Investigative Journalism
The Pittsburgh Courier that Robert L. Vann acquired in 1910 was a newspaper of humble beginnings. Its previous owner was a security guard at the H.J. Heinz Company food packing plant, and a self-published poet who sold copies for a nickel apiece.
Using some spare space above a funeral parlor as his newsroom, Vann, one of only five Black lawyers in the city at the time, drew investors who had wealth and assumed a mission he would later describe as an effort to “abolish every vestige of Jim Crowism in Pittsburgh.”
That declaration echoed the intent of others going back to the nation’s first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, founded in 1827. Another of the Journal’s goals was to serve African Americans in ways that white newspapers were not.
The Courier reported on middle-class Black life in the city, including accounts of marriages, vacations, and the parties of prominent people. Vann enhanced the newspaper’s national and international coverage by joining the Associated Negro Press, the Black counterpart of the white news service of similar name.