Press Release
Germantown Resident finds mother's WWII sketches

Press Contacts: Teri L. Sullivan
WKNO-TV/Channel 10
(901) 729-8735

June 10, 2014
For Immediate Release


Portraits for the Home Front: The Story of Elizabeth Black
airs Sunday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. on WKNO/Channel 10

In 2010, John Black and his wife Kay of Germantown received an unexpected surprise: a trunk, which had been stored, unexamined, for decades in a family member’s garage in California. Inside they found his mother’s footlocker filled with a 100 images of her sketches, photographs, scrapbooks, news clippings, and other memorabilia, launching John on a journey to meet this remarkable woman who had been his mother.

Portraits for the Home Front: The Story of Elizabeth Black, premiering Sunday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. on WKNO/Channel 10, follows John on this journey and creates a portrait of a patriotic artist who created wonderful memories for men overseas and who sent invaluable gifts to their loved ones at home.

Elizabeth Black was an up-and-coming artist in 1930s Pittsburgh. Prominent Pittsburgh families commissioned her work for portraits of children and other family members, garnering her more recognition among the community. Her crowning achievement in Pittsburgh was being selected by the Carnegie Library to paint 25 larger-than-life portraits of literary greats such as Longfellow, Dickinson, Thoreau, and others.

Leaving a promising art career behind, Pittsburgh native Elizabeth Black volunteered with the American Red Cross during World War II. During this time, she proposed a fascinating plan to sketch more than 1,000 portraits of soldiers, sailors, and airmen in England, France, Luxemburg, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. Miss Black sketched her way across Europe, completing as many as a dozen portraits a day. Every soldier signed their sketches, often including endearments to loved ones back home.

Seven decades later, her son John contacted WKNO to see if there might be interest in the story, and was assisted in connecting with producers at WQED in his mother’s hometown of Pittsburgh where her story really began. He then worked with WQED to create a documentary and locate the families of the soldiers, whose lives Elizabeth Black touched.

The documentary explores Miss Black’s lost art career, features interviews with elderly veterans who encountered the artist on the battlefield, and captures memorable scenes of amazed and appreciative families finally receiving portraits that never arrived. Through social media, a separate interactive component of the project, Finding Elizabeth’s Soldiers is working to make sure the 100 portraits in the Black collection reach the families that might not have them. An online gallery of the drawings can be viewed at, and is continually being updated as the veterans’ images are identified.

Created by the Emmy Award-winning team of writer/producer David Solomon and photographer/editor Paul Ruggieri, with narration by Michael Bartley, Portraits for the Home Front has already garnered honors in 2014 including the national Gabriel Award, and the regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

Portraits for the Home Front: The Story of Elizabeth Black premieres Sunday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. on WKNO/Channel 10. It also airs Monday, June 23 at 7:00 p.m. on WKNO2, available over the air on Channel 10.2 and on Comcast Cable Channel 910.

WKNO is a non-profit, private foundation serving the Mid-South for more than 57 years. An important community resource, WKNO uses the power of non-commercial public broadcasting to provide the Mid-South with quality educational and cultural programs that inform, entertain, and inspire.

For more information, visit or follow WKNO on Facebook @WKNO or on Twitter @wkno_tv.



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