Robert Lee Vann, lawyer and publisher of The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, was born in Ahoskie, North Carolina, on Aug. 27, 1879. In 1910, one year after graduating from law school, Vann began his career as legal counsel for The Courier and eventually became the paper's editor and publisher. By the 1930s, The Courier would become one of the most highly circulated Black newspapers in the country, with a national circulation of 200,000 readers. Additionally, Vann was involved in Pittsburgh's political landscape and was appointed assistant city solicitor in 1918. In his landmark speech, "The Patriot and the Partisan", given at the St. James Literary Forum in Cleveland in 1932, he urged Blacks to turn away from the Republican Party and to support Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election. Following Roosevelt's win, Vann was appointed as special assistant to the U.S. attorney general and continued to campaign for equal rights laws in Pennsylvania. He served as editor and publisher of the Courier until his death on Oct. 24, 1940.
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