Mr. Gordon Parks
Photographer, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician
Gordon Parks (b.1912) wrote about his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas, in his autobiographical novel and subsequent film, The Learning Tree, which was among the 25 films placed on the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1989. He went on to direct other films, to author several books, and to write original musical compositions, film scores, and a ballet.
He established his reputation as a world-renowned photojournalist for Life Magazine, chronicling the Civil Rights movement for two decades. His work for Vogue magazine established him as a master of fashion photography. A major retrospective exhibit of Parks’s work, Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1998 and toured the United States. HBO produced a documentary on Parks, also titled Half Past Autumn.
As a filmmaker, he was the first African-American to direct a major Hollywood production with the poignant memoir of his youth The Learning Tree, filmed on location in Fort Scott. He also broke new ground with a hip black hero on the silver screen named Shaft.
Parks received the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and has received over fifty honorary doctorates. His fifth autobiography and a new book of poetry were published in November of 2005. Mr. Parks died on March 7, 2006 and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery in his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas on March 16, 2006.