Each Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have died in service to this country as part of its armed forces. With diligence and care, many local observances of this holiday seek to uplift African Americans, who have often fought and died abroad for a country that marginalized them through segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.
During the 1940s, Charles “Teenie” Harris photographed over 1,500 soldiers in his studio, which was located on Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. These portraits were his contribution to the war effort. As a photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, Harris also captured the realities—points of pride and points of sorrow—of a “separate but equal” service during this era.
Harris’s photographs preserve the legacy of black patriotism during a time of visible discrimination. The lived experiences of Master Sergeant Eugene Boyer Jr., a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and of Mr. Staff Sergeant Lance Woods—60 years Boyer’s junior, and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan—have been woven into this history. Their recollections of their unique experiences frame the activities captured in these photographs.