I read Gordon Parks’s biography 15 years ago. I was teaching in the South Bronx at the time, and was holed up in the disheveled, musty book room trying to find a book to teach my Sophomores. Sitting on the shelf, next to several tattered editions of the 1971 paperback The Negro in the City was a lone copy of A Choice of Weapons.
I took it. I read it. I was enthralled. Gordon Parks was a force to be reckoned with. He defied all limitations. He refused to allow society to impose upon him a sense of failure and resignation. He created his own reality and proved his worth as a self-made man. Gordon Parks had integrity. A black man who successfully battled every possible barrier – racism, the death of his mother, poverty, Parks was a testament to the idea of self determination.
Like other great artists fighting injustice, Gordon Parks saw beyond the confines of his environment and exposed himself to experiences. By living sundry realities, Gordon Parks defined himself and developed his power. As evident in his stunning documentary, Half Past Autumn, Parks was the embodiment of a self-made, Renaissance man, a formidable example of how will, determination, and perseverance can overcome resistance.
His photograph American Gothic (pictured above) is one of the many ways Parks fought to achieve social justice. While it is impossible to account for all the times people of color suffered discrimination, we can revel in the moments when racism was defeated. His life serves as an example of that triumph.
There are numerous other remarkable stories, below I note just a handful.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle produced by Iconoclast
42: The story of a legend (Jackie Robinson) written and directed by Brian Helgeland
What Happened, Miss Simone? a Netflix documentary