Gordon Parks: A Legend who Helped Paved the Way for Black Artists

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, U.S. He was an American photographer, film director, musician, and writer.

Who Was Gordon Parks?

Gordon Parks was the first African American to produce films and direct motion pictures capturing the struggles of black American slaves.

He is popularly known for the major photos he took of poor Americans in the past. Parks was also a great poet, author, and composer at other times.

Parks is one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. He was also a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice.

His Early Life

Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, on November 30, 1912

. He is the youngest of fifteen children of

Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross.
His father was a farmer who grew potatoes, turnips, corn, tomatoes, greens, and beets. They also reared a few chickens, hogs, and ducks.
He attended a segregated elementary school for white and black people, but the black students were not allowed to participate in social activities. Instead, they were always discouraged from developing aspirations for higher education.

At eleven years old, he was thrown into the Marmaton River by white boys who believed he couldn’t swim. When he turned fourteen, his mother died, and he spent the night sleeping beside his mother’s coffin. He was later sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with his sister and her husband, where he managed to get a job at 15.

His Photography Life

His Personal Life

Parks was married and divorced three times.

  • In 1933, he married Sally Alvis in Minneapolis, and they divorced in 1961.
  • In 1962, he married Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of cartoonist E. Simms Campbell, who divorced in 1973.
  • In 1973, he got married to Chinese-American editor Genevieve Young, and they divorced in 1979.
  • Parks had four children: Gordon, Jr., David, Leslie, and Toni Parks.
  • In Kenya, his oldest son Gordon Parks, Jr., was killed in a plane crash in 1979.
  • Parks have five grandchildren: Alain, Gordon III, Sarah, Campbell, and Satchel. 

Other Achievements

Gordon Parks

In 1969, Parks became the first African American to write The Learning Tree, based on his bestselling semi-autobiographical novel. He published many books, including poetry, novels, memoirs, and volumes on the photographic method. In 1989 he composed, directed, and produced the music. Martin, dedicated to the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks, spent his last years changing his style and continued until his death on March 7, 2006. He died at age 93.

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