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5 facts about 20th century Renaissance man Gordon Parks

“Gordon Parks: A Segregation Story 1956” (Photo Credit: Steed Media Service)

In celebration of Black History Month, rolling out is highlighting important figures in Black culture. Today, we examine the accomplishments of Gordon Parks.

Parks was the modern-day renaissance man of the 20th century. Parks was a versatile artist who was accomplished in photojournalism, film, writing, and music. The artist is most known for his ability to use his lens to invoke social justice.

– Gordon Parks was born in Kansas in 1912. As a child, he was drawn to images of migrant workers. He purchased his first camera from a pawnshop and taught himself how to use it. With little experience, Parks found a job with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) capturing the nation’s social conditions.

– In 1948, he released a photo essay on Red Jackson, a Harlem gang leader. This was the photo essay that won him widespread acclaim and captured the attention of the world. He was able to portray gang members as young impoverished Black kids led down the wrong path. It was his ability to humanize subjects that earned him a credit as the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine.

-He spent two decades at Life Magazine chronicling various topics, but he focused on covering issues of race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. He became one of the most notable photojournalists of his time. He worked with activists such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael.

-Parks became the first African American man to write, direct, and score a Hollywood feature film, The Learning Tree, which was based on his semi-autobiographical novel. He continued his directing career with his very popular film Shaft. He also produced documentaries and bio-pics sharing the lives of significant African Americans.

-Today, The Gordon Parks Foundation works to ensure that the modern day renaissance man is remembered for all of his outstanding achievements. They partnered with Jack Shainman Gallery to present Gordon Parks: I Am You | Part 2., a celebration of Parks’ best works. The exhibit is open in New York until March 25, 2018.