Robert Vann

Robert Vann

Robert L. Vann (1879-1940),
Editor, publisher, lawyer

Vann was born August 27, 1879, in Ahoskie, Hertford County, North Carolina, and attended Western University of Pennsylvania from 1903 to 1906. He graduated from Law School in June 1909. In 1910, he decided to supplement his income by serving as legal counsel for The Pittsburgh Courier. Shortly after he became the paper's editor and publisher.

Under his leadership, The Courier developed into one of the leading black newspapers of his era. By the 1930s it was one of the highest circulated black newspapers in the United States. As many as 14 different editions were circulated throughout the country.

Vann was involved in politics throughout his association with The Courier. In 1918 he was appointed the fourth assistant city solicitor in Pittsburgh, the highest position held by an African American in the city government. Initially a Republican, he grew disillusioned with the party and converted to the Democratic Party. On September 11, 1932, Vann delivered a famous speech at the St. James Literary Forum in Cleveland, Ohio entitled "The Patriot and the Partisan" and urged African Americans throughout the nation to turn away from the Republican party which had failed them, and support the Democratic party of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election. Vann supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election, and was subsequently named special assistant to the U.S. attorney general. In 1935 he helped campaign for the enactment of an equal rights law in the State of Pennsylvania.

Vann served as editor and publisher of The Pittsburgh Courier until his death on October 24, 1940.


Buni, Andrew. Robert L. Vann of The Pittsburgh Courier. Politics and Black Journalism . Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974.