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Wikipedia Entry

March 17, 2013

Frank E. Bolden, Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frank E. Bolden, Jr. (1912-2003) was a legendary Pittsburgh historian and pioneering African American reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier, at one time the preeminent African American newspaper in the country. Bolden’s beat was the thriving African American community of Pittsburgh called the Hill District. He distinguished himself as a newspaperman during WW II when he was one of two African Americans to receive press credentials to cover the war. During his time as a war correspondent, he wrote about black engineering troops and their backbreaking task of building a road through the jungles of Burma. During this time, Bolden also interviewed Indian leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and spent time as a houseguest of each.

The early years

Bolden was born in Washington, PA, to son of Frank Bolden, Sr., the town’s first African American mail carrier. His father told him, “When you’re average, you are just as far from the bottom as you are from the top.”

After graduating high school, he attended the University of Pittsburgh to study law. Later, he switched to biology. While at Pitt, he played the clarinet and became the first African American in the university’s marching band. To earn extra money, he began writing freelance articles for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most influential newspapers in the country.  Even though, he graduated from Pitt with an “A” average, he was denied admission into the university’s medical school. At that time, most medical schools denied entrance to African Americans.

A reporter is born

Bolden sought employment as a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools but was turned down.  He returned to the Pittsburgh Courier, where he worked as feature and general assignment reporter, covering the bustling social and cultural scene along Wylie Avenue in the Hill District. Nearly every icon in the world of jazz performed in the Hill District, in legendary places such as the Crawford Grill. Bolden interviewed most of them, including Pittsburgh-born Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie. He also covered Negro Baseball League, interviewing stars Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, among others.

World War II

Bolden became one of two African American reporters to be credentialed as a war correspondent when the Pittsburgh Courier submitted his name for credentials. He chronicled the exploits of African American troops for the National Negro Publishers Association, which distributed stories to African American newspapers across the country.

While covering the China-Burma-India theater, he wrote about the “hellish” conditions under which African American troops built the Burma Road.  Some troops were killed by Japanese sniper fire, while others died from cobra bites and jungle fever.  In India, he was granted an interview with Mahatma Gandhi. Instead of

a couple of hours, the war correspondent spent 15 days with the Mahatma.  Later, Bolden spent 12 days as a houseguest of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Back in the states

Bolden returned to work at the Pittsburgh Courier as a feature writer, after turning down offers from Life Magazine and the New York Times. At that time the Courier had a circulation of 400,000. Eventually, Bolden became the newspaper’s city editor.  He was a tough task master, especially around deadline time, said Courier reporter Phyllis T. Garland in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, following Bolden’s death in 2003. “He would ride his reporters at deadline time,” said Garland, a professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “He would prod them, like a rider with spurs on a horse. He could be very insistent. Sometimes the women would cry.”

After the Courier

After leaving the Courier in 1962, Bolden joined the New York Times. He did not stay there long, and soon joined NBC-radio and then NBC-TV.  Within a year, he became a correspondent for the “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”

Once, he returned to Pittsburgh, Bolden became the assistant director of information and community relations for the Pittsburgh Board of Education, retiring after 17 years.

Later years

Bolden was much-sought-after for his vast knowledge of Pittsburgh’s African American community and its history. He could talk for hours and often did after one question by an interviewer. His home was filled with newspaper articles and documents from his decades of reporting.

Each summer, the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation holds the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop for high school students, named in honor the pioneering journalist.

References

1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, August 29, 2003

2. NABJ Journal, Spring Issue 2003

3. ExplorePAhistory.com

4. Humanity Docs

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2 Comments
  1. This is a great first volley for your new voice Darling. It’s amazing that the article doesn’t already exist.

    You and Social Jane could publish. You could put a few more internal Wikipedia links in the body of your article. You could direct footnotes to your references/endnotes. And the external link to the PBMF site in the body of the article goes against Wikipedia link formatting. But if you corrected these issues and put your article up on the Wikipedia, the editors might leave it alone. That’s an accomplishment.

    I like the Wikipedia link policy. Within your work, reference your work. Within your site or blog, reference your site and blog. Footnote and link to outside articles and sources with endnotes. This may not be the norm, but it forces you to keep your articles independent. If you link to an article in your work without summarizing its points, you force readers to leave and they may never come back.

    As I said at the beginning of the semester, be a link versus being an aggregate. Reference and cite other writing and posts, but build on those ideas. Don’t direct us away from you.

    The article itself could be cleaned up slightly. A “tough task master?” Is there any other kind of task master?

    The Wikipedia is a great tool for thinking about knowledge. Following the links within the Wikipedia articles that interest you is a lesson in where your interests sit within the world of knowledge. It helps you see holes in that knowledge or places that lack attention.

    A writer looks to fill those gaps.

    Clicking on the tabs at the top of each Wikipedia article is also an education. You can look at the Talk between editors that lies behind each article. You can also look at the article’s history of development. You can find the debates and arguments within your interests. No article is ever finished. Knowledge is always evolving.

    A few students always write Wikipedia articles about themselves or their pseudonyms. This is also against Wikipedia policy. You cannot submit original material. Your original ideas must become published material elsewhere to be referenced within a Wikipedia article. The world must consider you and your ideas notable before the Wikipedia editors will.

    This is what you pursue by creating your unique voice.

    Good work.

    (Prof. Kalm)
    Bob

  2. I found this subject your chose facinating and I think you researched it well. Made me google search him to find out more.

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