Summary Information
Title: Frank E. Bolden Papers
Collection Number: AIS.2008.05
Creator: Bolden, Frank E., 1912-2003

Collection Dates: 1930-1967
Extent: 2.5 linear feet (2 boxes)

Language: English

This collection contains documents relating to the life and career of journalist, Frank E. Bolden, a reporter and city editor of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper and war correspondent for the U.S. military. The material in this collection, dating between 1930 and 1967, includes correspondence, drafts of articles, student notebooks, memos, photographs, and newspaper clippings.

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
Date Published:

May 2010

Finding aid prepared by Wendy Pflug.
Revision Description:
February 2014:
Creator's name heading revised to add correct dates


Franklin Eugene (Frank) Bolden, Jr., was born on December 24, 1912 in Washington, Pennsylvania. His family contributed several “firsts” to history. His father, Frank E. Bolden, Sr., was the first African American mail carrier in Washington. Bolden's grandfather also achieved a notable first in 1871 as the first African American in Nashville, Tennessee, to sit on a grand jury.

Frank Bolden graduated from Washington High School in 1930 and enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. Bolden planned on becoming an attorney, but found an interest in science and switched to a major in biology. While at the University of Pittsburgh, he became the first African American member of the marching band playing the clarinet. He also joined the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. It was during this time as a student at Pitt that he wrote articles for the Pittsburgh Courier. As a “stringer,” or a free-lance contributor, he wrote sports articles for extra money. Bolden graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1934 earning a Bachelor of Science degree. He then applied to Pitt's School of Medicine, but was turned down due to his race. Pitt, like many medical schools at the time, did not admit African Americans. He also applied to be a teacher with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, but at that time they did not hire African American teachers.

While pursuing graduate studies at Pitt, he was hired by the Pittsburgh Courier and became a general assignment report and feature writer covering the cultural and social life of Wylie Avenue in the Hill District. Bolden covered the jazz clubs and once famously quipped, “Wylie Avenue: the only street in America that begins with a church and ends with a jail” (Love). He invented a unique lexicon to give colorful descriptions of the nightlife. He referred to prostitutes as the “sisterhood of the nocturnal order.” He also covered sports and wrote about the Negro Baseball League. He covered baseball legends Satchel Paige of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays. He also wrote a series that traced the complete genealogies of eight prominent African American families in Pittsburgh, tracking down all living relatives.

When the United States entered World War II, the editors at the Pittsburgh Courier submitted Bolden’s name as a war correspondent. He was subsequently chosen by the U.S. War Department as one of the first two accredited war correspondents. Bolden's stories were filed with the National Negro Publishers Association, and appeared in Black newspapers across the United States like Chicago's Defender, Baltimore’s Afro-American, and the Pittsburgh Courier. Due to racial segregation in the military, Bolden was only permitted to cover African American units. Through his articles which described the bravery of soldiers in the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy, he helped debunk the myth that African Americans could not handle the stress of combat. Bolden was also embedded with African American troops in Asia helping to build an air strip along the Burma Road. Many of the soldiers lost their lives in the brutal tropical conditions.

Bolden also had the opportunity to interview Mahatma Gandhi, who had read Bolden’s war articles. A two hour interview turned into a two week stay as a house guest. Bolden compared the Indian independence from Great Britain as similar to struggles of Blacks in the United States. Not wanting to be outdone by Gandhi, Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru also invited Bolden to stay with him.

Bolden returned to the Courier in 1945 as a features writer after declining offers from Life Magazine and the New York Times. The Pittsburgh Courier was the leading African American newspaper in the country at the time. According to his obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “[Bolden] thought he would have less impact on civil rights at a white publication than at a black publication. Plus he felt a debt of gratitude toward the Courier, a weekly paper” (Rouvalis).

Bolden was promoted to city editor, a position he held from 1956 to 1960. In this position, he often traveled between Courier branch offices for extended stays in cities such as Detroit and Cleveland. In the 1960s the Pittsburgh Courier ran into financial difficulties. Many African American newspapers lost circulation during this time period as mainstream white newspapers gave coverage to the Civil Rights’ Movement. Bolden married Nancy Travis in 1960 and in 1962 he left for a brief stint as a reporter for the New York Times and then a position at NBC-radio and NBC-TV. In 1964 he returned to Pittsburgh to become assistant director of information and community relations for the Pittsburgh Board of Education. He retired in 1981 and spent his days as the “unofficial historian of Pittsburgh’s African American community" (Brennan). Despite his attention to African American history and writing about the lives of countless others, Bolden never wrote about his own life. When asked why, he would shrug and say: "I feel like a mosquito in a nudist camp. I don't know where to begin” (Rouvalis).

Bolden died on August 28, 2003 at age 90 in Pittsburgh.

Sources: Brennan, Carol. “Frank E. Bolden.” Contemporary Black Biography. Gale Group, Inc, 2006

Rouvalis, Cristina. “Reporter, raconteur Frank Bolden dies at 90.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 29, 2003.

Frank Bolden: the man behind the words. Produced, written, and directed by Daniel Love. Narrated by David Early. Daniel Love, 2001. Videocassette

Collection Scope and Content Notes

The Frank E. Bolden Papers contain correspondence, writings, newspaper clippings, memos and student notebooks that date between 1930 and 1967. The collection contains material from his time as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, records relating to his journalism career with the Pittsburgh Courier and the U.S. Military, along with materials on his personal and family life. Each series contains a scope note detailing the content found within the records.


The collection is arranged into the following four series:

Series I. University of Pittsburgh, 1930-1937

Series II. Journalism Career, 1942-1965

Series III. Correspondence, 1931-1961

Series IV. Personal, 1933-1967

Subject Terms

  • African American journalists -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • African American newspapers -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • African American soldiers
  • Journalists -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Newspapers -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Journalists

Corporate Names
  • University of Pittsburgh.

Personal Names
  • Bolden, Frank E., 1912-2003
  • Prattis, Percival Leroy, 1895-1980
  • Vann, Jessie, 1885-1967

  • Pittsburgh (Pa.)

  • Courier (Pittsburgh, Pa. : City ed.)
  • Courier (Pittsburgh, Pa. : National ed.)

  • Correspondence
  • Memorabilia
  • Personal papers
  • Photographs

  • Social action
  • University of Pittsburgh

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Nancy Travis Bolden in 2008.

Preferred Citation:

Frank E. Bolden Papers, 1930-1967, AIS.2008.05, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Wendy Pflug in May 2010.


The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Related Material:

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Pittsburgh Branch Records, 1940-1966, 1974, AIS.1964.38, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Percival L. Prattis Papers, 1916-1980, AIS.2007.01, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Urban League of Pittsburgh Records, 1915-1963, AIS.1981.11, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Collection Inventory

Series I. University of Pittsburgh, 1930-1937

Scope and Content Notes:

This series documents Frank Bolden’s time as a student at the University of Pittsburgh. Bolden entered the university in 1930 intending to be an attorney, but switched his major to Biology. He graduated in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science degree and went on to take graduate courses and function as Teaching Assistant in Biology. The material in this series includes numerous laboratory notebooks dedicated to biological study. There are a few pieces of ephemera that document his time in the Pitt Marching Band, such as a concert program and a photograph of a marching band formation. Of particular interest in this series is a short story written by Bolden called “The Gray Seal,” and a card indicating that he took a pledge of silence for the day as a pledge member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The material in this series dates from 1930 to 1937 and is arranged by year.

Box 1
Folder 1 "The Gray Seal," short story 1930
Folder 2 Constitution and By-Laws of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, 1930
Folder 3 Photographs of Bolden as a student, ca.1930
Folder 4 Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity membership certificate, 1931
Folder 5 Alpha Phi Alpha pledge of silence card, 1931
Folder 6 Pharmacy Notebook, ca.1931
Folder 8 University of Pittsburgh Band Concert Program, 1933
Folder 7 Excused absence note from Assistant Dean of Men, 1933
Folder 9 Vertebrate Zoology typewritten notes, 1934
Folder 10 Zoology Notebook, 1934
Folder 11 Alpha Omicron Lambda Constitution, By-Laws, and new member selections 1935
Folder 12 Vertebrate Zoology Notebook, 1935
Folder 13 Cell drawings for Zoology History course, 1935-1936
Folder 14 Zoology Histology Graduate Lab Notebook, 1935-1936
Folder 15 "The Individuality of the Chromosome" Term paper for Cytology, 1935-1936
Folder 16 Handwritten notes for Zoology Histology course, 1935-1936
Folder 17 Seminar report on "Ancient Medicine," 1936
Folder 18 Physiology Seminar notes and lab notebook, 1936
Folder 19 Notes on techniques in Protozology, 1936
Folder 20 Zoology Histology Final Exam, 1936
Folder 21 General Micrology and Histology, notes and workbook, 1936-1937
Folder 22 Biology Bacteriology Department, notes and lab notebook, 1937
Folder 23 Bacteriology Lab, workbook, undated
Folder 24 Bacteriology Report, undated
Folder 25 Crythropaiesis in Avian Marrow notes, undated
Folder 26 French Vocabulary notes undated
Folder 27 Term paper on Henderson-Hasselbalch Equation, undated
Folder 28 Pitt Band formation photograph, undated

Series II. Journalism Career, 1942-1965

Scope and Content Notes:

The material in this series includes drafts of articles, some with editorial mark-ups, handwritten notes, memos, and newspaper clippings of the articles on the various subjects Bolden coved in his career. The series dates from 1942 to 1965 and is further divided into three subseries; Pittsburgh Courier; War Department Correspondent; Other News Agencies.

Subseries 1. Pittsburgh Courier 1945-1963

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries includes documents from Bolden’s tenure at the Pittsburgh Courier covering the years 1945 to 1963. The material in this series includes drafts of articles, memos, notes, newspaper clippings of articles written by Bolden for the Courier, and research files of subjects that later appeared as articles in the paper. The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Folder 29 Drafts of articles on India, 1945
Folder 30 Articles on various subjects, 1945
Folder 31 Overseas Subjects articles, 1945
Folder 32 Copy and Telegrams from Courier Branch Offices, 1945-1946
Folder 33-35 Newspaper clippings of articles by Bolden, 1947-1953, 1955
Folder 36 Pittsburgh Courier and Branch Publications circulation report, 1949
Folder 37-38 Scrapbook pages of newspaper clippings (loose pages), 1949-1951
Folder 39 Notes on Supreme Court ruling in Henderson v. Commerce Commission and Southern Railway Co., 1950
Folder 40 Pittsburgh Courier Count, Gross Run, Spoils, Net Run, and Difference, November 18, 1950
Folder 41 Newspaper clippings of articles written by Bolden, 1951
Folder 42 Handwritten notes on story leads, 1952
Folder 43 Press Pass for Stevenson Rally, 1952
Folder 44 Pittsburgh Courier Directory of Employees, 1952
Folder 45 Newspaper clippings of articles written by Bolden, 1953
Folder 46 Pittsburgh Courier Press Passes, 1954
Folder 47 Research File: Chart of arrests by race for all Pittsburgh Police stations; newspaper clippings on Spaulding Inquest and crime, 1954
Folder 48 Newspaper clippings of musical and theatrical reviews written by Bolden, 1954-1955
Folder 49 "City Feature: Heroes in Blue" draft, 1955
Folder 50 Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Page One Awards certificates, 1955
Folder 51 Page One: Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh Yearbook, 1956, 1959, 1961
Folder 52 "It Happened in Pittsburgh," column drafts with editorial mark-ups, ca.1956
Folder 53 Memos from the Cleveland Courier Branch Office, 1957
Folder 54 Article draft with editorial mark-ups on NAACP dissatisfaction with Governor George M. Leader, 1958
Folder 55 The Foreign Policy Association of Pittsburgh Reception Dinner for Adnan Menderes, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1959
Folder 56 Newspaper clippings, "International Leaders at Pitt," 1959
Folder 57 Invitation to luncheon for Nikita Khrushchev's visit to Pittsburgh, 1959
Folder 58 Proposed Agreement between Pittsburgh Courier and Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, 1960

Box 2
Folder 1 Story lead and comments on Daniel Gardner Kean, 1962
Folder 2 Drafts of articles with Bolden's editorial mark-ups, 1963
Folder 3 Handwritten notes on jazz performances, undated
Folder 4 Typewritten note from P.L. Prattis, undated
Folder 5 Pittsburgh Courier blank receipt form, undated

Subseries 2. War Department Correspondent, 1942-1946

Scope and Content Notes:

The material in this subseries relates to Bolden’s time in the U.S. Army as a War Correspondent. The documents in this subseries cover his work stateside as a Press Officer at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. It includes drafts of articles, some that have editorial mark-ups, memos regarding African Americans in the military, and newspaper clippings of articles written by Bolden. The material in this subseries dates from 1942 to 1946 and is arranged chronologically.

Folder 6 Frank Bolden in an Army Uniform photograph, ca.1942
Folder 7 Leave of Absence from Department of Public Health for Service in the U.S. Army, 1942
Folder 8 Receipts from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, 1942
Folder 9 War Department Press Credentials for Fort Huachuca, Arizona, 1942
Folder 10-11 Fort Huachuca, Arizona Public Relations photographs, 1942
Folder 12 Article drafts with editorial mark-ups and Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press, ca.1942
Folder 13 Fort Huachuca, Arizona assorted materials, 1942-1943
Folder 14 Drafts of articles written while on assignment for U.S. Army, 1944
Folder 15 Scrapbook pages with clippings of Bolden's articles on War Service, 1945
Folder 16 Memos regarding African Americans in the Military, 1945
Folder 17 War Correspondents Awards list, ca.1945
Folder 18 Memo from War Department Bureau of Public Relations, 1946
Folder 19 Overseas Press Club of America Award Dinner for War Correspondents, 1946

Subseries 3. Other News Agencies, 1948-1963

Scope and Content Notes:

The Other News Agencies series dates from 1948 to 1963 and includes material Bolden wrote for publications other than the Pittsburgh Courier or the U.S. War Department. Material in this subseries covers his work with the Newspaper Guild of America, stories written for Our World Magazine, and reports for Travel Guide, Inc.

Folder 20 Newspaper Guild of Detroit, 1948
Folder 21 Press Credentials for Travel Guide, Inc. and Memos, 1948-1949
Folder 22 Travel Guide Reports and entry slips, 1949
Folder 23 Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild, Guild Galleys, 1952
Folder 24 American Newspaper Guild Convention Committee Reports and Manual, 1952-1953
Folder 25 American Newspaper Guild, CIO-CCL Manual, 1955
Folder 26 Assignment from Associated Negro Press to cover AMEZ Conference in Pittsburgh, 1956
Folder 27 International Seminars Program for Resident Foreign Correspondents, 1962
Folder 28 Articles prepared for publications, 1963
Folder 29 Pittsburgh Profile "9 to Midnight," story lead for Our World Magazine, undated

Series III. Correspondence, 1931-1961

Scope and Content Notes:

The Correspondence series includes letters written and received by Bolden from 1931 to 1961. It is arranged chronologically by year.

Folder 30 Professional Correspondence, 1931-1954
Folder 31 Professional Correspondence, 1955-1956
Folder 32 Professional Correspondence, 1957
Folder 33 Professional Correspondence, 1958
Folder 34 Professional Correspondence, 1959
Folder 35 Professional Correspondence, 1960-1961, undated
Folder 36 Personal Correspondence, 1938-1943
Folder 37 Personal Correspondence, 1944
Folder 38 Personal Correspondence, 1945
Folder 39 Personal Correspondence, 1946-1954
Folder 40 Personal Correspondence, 1955-1958
Folder 41 Personal Correspondence, 1959-1960, undated
Folder 42 Letters of Thanks, 1942-1962
Folder 43 Letters of Commendation, 1943, 1946-1954

Series IV. Personal, 1933-1967

Scope and Content Notes:

The Personal series features assorted material that documents Bolden’s life. Material includes ticket stubs to sporting events he attended, his War Rations stamp book, newspaper clippings on his announcement of marriage, and photographs of Bolden and his family. The series dates from 1933 to 1937.

Folder 44 Sunday School Award, 1933
Folder 45 War Rations Stamp Book, 1944
Folder 46 "Mr. and Mrs. Bolden" stories, ca. 1946
Folder 47 Ticket stubs to sporting events, 1946-1948
Folder 48 Newspaper clippings on divorce from Helen Bolden, 1950-1951
Folder 49 Frank Bolden Motor Vehicle Registrations and Operators' License, 1951-1958
Folder 50 Photographs of Bolden with group at Detroit restaurants, 1951
Folder 51 Urban League of Pittsburgh Minutes, 1954
Folder 51 Urban League of Pittsburgh Committee materials, ca. 1954
Folder 52 Westinghouse High School Career Conference and Bolden's written remarks, 1954
Folder 53 Alpha Phi Alpha 50th Anniversary materials, 1956
Folder 54 Alpha Phi Alpha Memorial Luncheon, 1956
Folder 55 Urban League of Pittsburgh minutes, 1955
Folder 56 Speeches from National Urban League Conference, Detroit, 1957
Folder 57 Newspaper clippings on marriage to Nancy Travis, 1960
Folder 58 Washington High School, 30th Class Reunion, 1960
Folder 59 Franklin Eugene Bolden, assorted materials regarding death, life insurance, and benefits, 1961-1963
Folder 60 Urban League of Essex, New Jersey Report on Newark Labor Market, 1963
Folder 61 Urban league Radio and Television releases, 1963
Folder 62 Department of State Application for Continuation of Federal Employment, 1963
Folder 63 Pennsylvania School Administrators' Seminar on Human Relations Education, 1964
Folder 64 Research File: University of Pittsburgh Civil Rights Practices, 1964
Folder 65 Assorted material regarding career as Assistant for Community Relations for Pittsburgh Public Schools, 1965
Folder 66 Program for Requiem Mass for Jessie M. Vann, 1967
Folder 67 Bolden with tobacco pipe photograph, undated
Folder 68 Family Tree, undated
Folder 69 Foreign postage stamps collection undated
Folder 70 Radio broadcast remarks on Duke Ellington, undated
Folder 71 Telephone and Address Book, undated
Folder 72 Untitled handwritten notes, undated
Folder 73 Unidentified photographs of possible family members, undated