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Descriptions of Pittsburgh Exhibit, Spring 2016 @ Archives & Special Collections

This exhibit brings together writings, quotes, images, and emotions related to the Pittsburgh area from 1750 to the present. It uses a wide selection of the Special Collections materials to illustrate the importance of Pittsburgh through the years.

John Edgar Wideman

Wideman is a celebrated author, focusing his stories and books on the lives of black men in urban America. He grew up in Homewood before leaving for higher education at the University of Pennsylvania and a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, along with careers at Brown, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and beyond. Wideman’s awards include 2 PEN/Faulkner Awards (Sent for You Yesterday – 1989. Philadelphia Fire – 1990), a lifetime achievement award from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, and a MacArther Genius Grant. 

The Homewood Books by John Edgar Wideman


"To an outsider Pittsburgh must seem all bridges, tunnels, rivers, and hills. If you're not climbing into the sky or burrowing into the bowels of the earth, you're suspended, crossing water or looking down on a hodgepodge scramble of houses strewn up and down the sides of a ravine. You'd wonder how people live clinging to terraced hillsides."

Brothers and Keepers. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984, pp. 41.



Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard was born April 30, 1945 in Pittsburgh and grew up in Point Breeze. She attended Hollins University and graduated with a Master's degree in English. After spending time keeping journals regarding her home in Roanoke, Virginia, she wrote her first major success, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - a narrative nonfiction piece about the natural life in Roanoke for which she won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. Dillard went on to write nonfiction and essays, along with two novels and an academic career at Wesleyan University. In 2000, Dillard's book For the Time Being received the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and on September 10, 2015 President Obama presented Dillard with a National Medal for the Arts and Humanities.  

Cover to An American Childhood by Annie Dillard


"I will see the city poured rolling down the mountain valleys like slag, and see the city lights sprinkled and curved around the hills’ curves, rows of bonfires winding. At sunset a red light like housefires shines from the narrow hillside windows; the houses’ bricks burn like glowing coals.

The three wide rivers divide and cool the mountains. Calm old bridges span the banks and link the hills. The Allegheny River flows in brawling from the north, from near the shore of Lake Erie, and from Lake Chautauqua in New York and eastward. The Monongahela River flows in shallow and slow from the south, from West Virginia. The Allegheny and the Monongahela meet and form the westward-wending Ohio."

An American Childhood. New York: Harper & Row, 1987, pp. 3.

August Wilson

August Wilson was born in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1945 and went on to become one of the most celebrated playwrights of the twentieth century. Wilson wrote a series of ten plays each taking place in a different decade of the twentieth century. The series of plays chronicling the African American experience are referred to as the Pittsburgh Cycle or the Century Cycle. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice for 1986's Fences and 1990's The Piano Lesson

Cover to The Piano Lesson by August Wilson


“I left Pittsburgh but Pittsburgh never left me. It was on these streets in this community in this city that I came into manhood and I have a fierce affection for the Hill District and the people who raised me, who have sanctioned my life and ultimately provide it with its meaning.”

August Wilson (1945-2005). As quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, March 28, 1999.

David McCullough

David McCullough was born in Pittsburgh in 1933, and raised in the Point Breeze neighborhood. He went on to become one of the bestselling and most honored historians and biographers of the late twentieth century. He has received the Pulitzer Prize for biography twice and in 2006 he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a civilian of the United States. Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh has officially named the 16th Street Bridge the David McCullough Bridge on his 80th birthday July 7th, 2013. 

Cover of John Adams by David McCullough


 “People will say to me that I managed to work Pittsburgh into my books. I don’t ‘work in’ Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a major part of American history.”

David McCullough. As quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

Billy Porter

Billy Porter appeared in several Broadway productions in the 1990s. However, Kinky Boots elevated his career to new heights. His role as Lola won him both the 2013 Drama Desk and Tony Award for actor in a musical. Porter was raised in East Liberty and attended both the Creative High School for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Mellon University before moving to New York. 

“[Pittsburgh] will always be the love of my life.... …I’m so grateful to have been able to grow up there and for my childhood there and my training and all of the angels that were present for me in very, very difficult times.”

Billy Porter. As quoted in Pittsburgh Magazine, August 2015.