My Contribution: I was a top student in Harrisburg’s Central High School and the only African American graduate in the class of 1904. I became an excellent teacher in Harrisburg for a number of years. Following my husband’s death in 1940, I held lead roles as president and treasurer of The Pittsburgh Courier, the largest African Amer- ican newspaper in the world with a circulation of 300,000. I was a political advocate locally, regionally, and nationally for Black citizens and women of color.
My Legacy: I used my education to become one of the most prom- inent figures of my day in the field of journalism and advocated for the rights of African Americans as well as women. The New Pitts- burgh Courier still stands as a representation of my legacy. I remain a memorialized figure in the historic publication, The Crisis.
About Me: “She played a big role in Pittsburgh…in the world of many people. She will be missed grievously.” — Pittsburgh Courier, June 17, 1967.
“She assumed an active role in the publication of the Pittsburgh Cou- rier…. in 1940. Under her direction, the paper became the largest Negro weekly newspaper in the country.” — Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 8, 1967.
Full Name: Jessie E. Matthews; Jessie M. Vann; Mrs. R. L. Vann
Birth Date: 1885
Death Date: June 7, 1967
Place of Birth: Flora Dale near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1900 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: Places of Residence: 313 Nectarine Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Attended school with many Eighth Warders; member of community organizations in the ward; and attended church at Bethel A.M.E. Church
Family Members: Sister: Margaret B. Matthews. Brother-in-Law: Lewis W. Matthews. Husband: Robert Lee Vann. Foster-Daughter: Mrs. Mabel Johnson
Education: : Harrisburg Central High School (1904)
Occupations: Teacher. Publisher/Vice President of The Pittsburgh Courier
Church Membership: Bethel A.M.E. Church; Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh
Activism: Elliott Association; Capital City Waiters Association (recitation performer); Phyllis Wheatley YWCA; served on board of directors for: Pittsburgh YWCA; Urban League Pittsburgh Chapter; NAACP Pittsburgh Chapter; Hill City Municipality; Pittsburgh Conference of Christians and Jews; Department of Public
Assistance of Allegheny County; and the national women’s organization Link, Inc. Member of Virginia Union University; National Newspapers Publishers Association; National Council of Negro Women; and National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Contributed to the Governor’s Committee on Industrial Race Relations and the International Development Advisory Board; delegate to Republican conventions; ap- pointed by President Eisenhower as delegate to inauguration of the President of Libe- ria; served as Daughters of the King at Holy Cross Episcopal Church
Connections: Sylvester Burris, A. Dennee Bibb, Luther Newman, Matilda Stewart, Harry Burrs, Rev. William H. Marshall, W. Arthur Carter, Professor Morris H. Layton, Ida Brown, George H. Imes, Dr. William H. Jones, C. Sylvester Jackson, and Joseph L. Thomas.