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Charles F. Harris

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Information about Charles F. Harris

Profile image of Charles F. Harris

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Book Publishing Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Business Suit Gray
Favorite Food:
Blue Crab
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France, Miami, Florida
Favorite Quote:
The World Is A Wonderful Place.

Birthplace

Born:
1/3/1934
Birth Location:
Portsmouth, Virginia

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Book Publishing Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Business Suit Gray
Favorite Food:
Blue Crab
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France, Miami, Florida
Favorite Quote:
The World Is A Wonderful Place.

Birthplace

Born:
1/3/1934
Birth Location:
Portsmouth
See how Charles F. Harris is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Pioneering book publishing executive Charles F. Harris was born on January 3, 1934 in Portsmouth, Virginia. During his elementary school days, Harris delivered newspapers in the community to make some extra money. His father insisted that he not deliver something that he did not read. Harris accepted his father’s challenge and became an avid reader at an early age. Graduating in 1955, from Virginia State University with a B.A. degree, he served in the Infantry of the United States Army and received an Honorable Discharge as a First Lieutenant.

Harris began his publishing career in 1956 at Doubleday & Company where, in 1965, as editor of Doubleday’s Publishing Division he launched the Zenith Book Series, which focused on African American history for elementary and high school students. He also acquired original manuscripts for publication and edited works by John Hope Franklin, Robert Weaver, Rayford Logan, and Jim Brown. Joining Random House in 1967 as senior editor, Harris edited Amistad, two volumes of writings on African American History and culture. This paperback magazine was launched in 1970 and was aimed at college humanities and social science courses. He also acquired The Greatest by Muhammad Ali with Richard Durham.

In 1971, Harris was recruited to create and manage the Howard University Press, where he served as the first chief executive, supervising all book publishing until 1986. He founded Amistad Press Inc. in 1986 to specialize in the works of African American themes. Its publishing program includes works by Arthur Ashe, John H. Johnson, Susan Taylor, Congressman William L. Clay, as well as the critically acclaimed Amistad Literary Series, which features critical studies of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.

In 1999, Harris sold Amistad Press to HarperCollins Publishers, and he joined HarperCollins as Vice President Editorial Director of this new imprint and as an executive editor for the HarperCollins General Books Group. Harris also authored a monthly column on Bet.com. In 2003, Harris left HarperCollins Publishers to once again start his own publishing company, Alpha Zenith Media Inc., where he continued to publish works critical to the African American community.

Harris passed away on December 16, 2015.

See how Charles F. Harris is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles F. Harris' interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris describes his maternal aunt and family gatherings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes the makeup of his childhood neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris describes his father's occupation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris describes his childhood love of newspapers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris recalls his father's support of labor unions
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles F. Harris describes his ancestors
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Charles F. Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Charles F. Harris remembers fishing as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles F. Harris' interview, session 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris describes his childhood neighborhood and elementary school experience
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris describes the socioeconomic diversity of his childhood community
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris describes the leaders and recreational activities of his childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris describes his religious upbringing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes the segregation he encountered in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris describes his family's community involvement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris remembers his teachers at Mount Hermon School in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris recalls special programs at Mount Hermon School in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles F. Harris describes Virginia's poll tax and other inequalities
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris describes Mount Hermon School in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris remembers his teachers at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris remembers his teachers at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris talks about covering sports for his school newspaper, the Norcom Gazette
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris talks about Junius Kellog's role in the 1950 point shaving scandal
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes writing for The Portsmouth Star
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris describes raising money for Junius Kellogg following the point shaving scandal
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris explains his decision to attend Virginia State College in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris recalls his inspiration to become a journalist
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris describes the Norfolk Branch, Virginia State College in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris remembers the impact of segregation on the high schools in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris describes writing for the university paper
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris describes the growth of industry in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris describes his experiences at Norfolk Branch, Virginia State College in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris talks about joining Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris talks about enrolling in ROTC in college
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris remembers seeing Thurgood Marshall speak at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris describes his experiences in ROTC
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Charles F. Harris talks about being drafted after college
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Charles F. Harris describes traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris describes arriving for basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris describes discrimination during basic training
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris shares lessons learned from his U.S. military service
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris talks about moving to New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris remembers being hired at Doubleday & Company Inc. in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes his experience at Doubleday & Company Inc. in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris describes meeting HistoryMaker John Hope Franklin
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris describes meeting prominent writers and academics as a new editor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris remembers encountering discrimination while travelling for work
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles F. Harris's interview, session 3
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris describes meeting his wife and the birth of his first son
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris remembers his older brother, Francis Harris
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris explains why he visited historically black colleges as an editor for Doubleday & Company Inc.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris describes his visits to historically black colleges, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes his visits to historically black colleges, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris talks about publishing the 'Zenith Book' series, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris talks about publishing the 'Zenith Book' series, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris recalls trying to convince Jim Brown and Bill Russell to write their memoirs
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Charles F. Harris talks about publishing Jim Brown's memoir
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris talks about Jim Brown's retirement and memoir
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris describes leaving Doubleday & Company to work for Portal Press in New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris talks about working for Random House in New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris talks about pursuing Muhammad Ali to publish his autobiography
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris talks about the acquisition of Muhammad Ali's autobiography, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris talks about the acquisition of Muhammad Ali's autobiography, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris talks about publishing Amistad
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris talks about founding and directing Howard University Press in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris recalls becoming director of Howard University Press in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris talks about researching and visiting college presses
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris describes the launch of the Howard University Press in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris describes being approached to publish Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley's book
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris describes his experience publishing Prime Minster Michael Manley's book
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris describes attending the Ile Book Fair in Lagos, Nigeria
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris describes his travels in Africa
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris describes his attempt to establish a printing press in Africa
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris explains England's dominance in the publishing industries of Africa
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris describes trying to convince China to join the Copyright Convention
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris recalls leaving Howard University Press to publish Arthur Ashe's autobiography
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris describes establishing Amistad Press Incorporated in New York City
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris remembers the landmark fair use case of Wright v. Warner Books, Inc.
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris recalls publishing 'Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography' by HistoryMaker Donald Bogle
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris remembers selling Amistad Press to HarperCollins in New York City
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Charles F. Harris recalls founding Alpha Zenith Media Incorporated in New York City
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Charles F. Harris describes the publishing industry's shortcomings in reaching African American audiences
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Charles F. Harris talks about the terms Negro and colored as identifiers of African Americans
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Charles F. Harris reflects upon his family's sense of racial identity
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Charles F. Harris shares his concerns about media portrayals of African Americans
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Charles F. Harris reflects upon the importance of history
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Charles F. Harris reflects upon his legacy and his love of books
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Charles F. Harris shares his concern about the role of religion in the African American community
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Charles F. Harris narrates his photographs