Today, we’re going to dig back in the around Kansas vault and share the life the legacy in the work of Fort Scott’s Gordon Parks. The youngest of Sarah and Andrew Jackson parks has 15 children. Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan parks was born dead on November 30 1912, revived by Dr. Gordon Park spot to make his own way in the world from his first breath. Growing up in Fort Scott, Kansas was difficult for parks and the rest of the communities African American residents. While a youngster in Fort Scott Gordon experienced racism firsthand when he witnessed a lynching. When he was 11 three white boys through young Gordon into the Farmington river because they knew he could not swim. He stayed below the water surface until they moved along, and sharing that he safely made it to shore. His mother Sarah was influential in Gordon’s upbringing, she introduced him to music, literature and the arts. In 1928. When she died, Gordon was sent to live with an older sister in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1937, Parks purchased his first camera of white launder brilliant at a pawn shop and began taking photos. When this first roll of film was developed, the owner of the lab realized that Gordon had an innate talent and encouraged him to continue shooting. The rest is history. in Minneapolis, Gordon began shooting fashion portraits for a women’s clothing store in 1941. His work captured the attention of marva Lewis, the wife of heavyweight boxer Joe Lewis. By 1942. He was chronicling life for Chicago’s African Americans living in the south side, and he received a prestigious Julius Rosenwald fellowship, he chose to work with the Farm Security Administration in Washington DC during his fellowship, he explored the lives of African Americans in the nation’s capitol. His most famous portrait American Gothic featured Ella Watson with her broom and mop at the Farm Security Administration where she worked as a cleaning lady. Gordon realized then that the power of his camera and the stories he told through his photographs, he would become the first African American photographer to work for Vogue and life magazines, not content to confine himself to one medium. Gordon also wrote prose and poetry, composed music and took up filmmaking as well. His semi autobiographical novel The Learning tree, chronicled his time growing up in Fort Scott. In 1969, Gordon became the first African American to write produce and direct a feature film supported by a major Hollywood studio. the filming of the learning tree brought Gordon back to Fort Scott for only the second time since he left in 1928. He would follow his first foray into film with the edgy urban blaxploitation film shaft, starring Richard Roundtree shaft spawn off several sequels. Gordon also composed the music for his films in 2000 for the Gordon Park center for culture and diversity was founded at Fort Scott Community College, and Gordon returned home once again. He attended the center’s Gordon Park celebration October that year, I had the honor and great fortune to meet and photograph Gordon while he visited his birthplace, Gordon offered me a piece of advice that guides me in my own photographic work, shoot from your heart and always trust your instincts. On March 7 2006, Gordon Parks a Kansas renaissance man and tireless advocate for social justice and equality died in New York City. His final wish was to be buried near his parents in Fort Scott’s evergreen cemetery. Today, you can visit the Gordon Park center on the Fort Scott community college campus and see Gordon’s desk, his photographs and other items he bequeath to the center. I hope you’ll join me again for another historical adventure somewhere around Kansas. As always,
I’m Deb Goodrich. Thank you for joining us this morning, and the afternoon or whenever you happen to watch us. Thanks for being a part of our day. And as ever, I’ll see you somewhere around Kansas.