Black historian John Brewer dies at 73

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story for John Brewer published in the newspaper print edition (Feb. 21) contained errors, of which are now corrected in this online version.  


John Brewer was bigger than life—that’s probably because he documented the lives of so many other Black Pittsburghers over the years. An author, raconteur, and collector of oral histories, Brewer died in his sleep, Feb. 13. He was 73.
As noted in the biography of him the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation wrote, he could recite the history of the Pittsburgh Trolley System from memory. He knew who owned a long-gone meat market on an East End street that is there no longer—and who worked there, and who they married.
He knew the players and the pretenders, and that proved invaluable when the Carnegie Museum needed someone to help catalog the more than 70,000 photographs, prints and negatives taken by renowned photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, who shot for the Pittsburgh Courier from the 1930s through the 1970s. He curated the collection and began an oral history companion exhibit.
Until recently, Brewer was the longtime owner of the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood, which served as a meeting and event hall. And though Brewer was a proud Peabody High School graduate, the Coliseum would often host ceremonies when when Westinghouse alumni were voted onto the school’s Wall of Fame.
Former President Bill Clinton made a campaign stop there for his wife’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Visitation for Brewer was held at St. Charles Lawanga Parish Mother of God Council on Bennett Street, Feb. 18. He is survived by his wife Tina, and daughter, Kristine Jordan, and son, John. The visitation service was private, but the family is planning a memorial service at an unspecified future date.
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