I was reading one of my favorite blogs and came across an article on Gordon Parks. Gordon Parks was a nationally known photographer most known for capturing images related to American life. He was also the first African American hired as a staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine. I came across an article written about how some photos of his that were previously thought to be lost had been found. It turns out some of these photos had actually been published in Life Magazine as part of a series on segregation. These particular photos are from Mobile, Alabama and were taken in 1956. Although they are not photos related to our favorite West Tennessee towns they are photos depicting what life was like under segregation. Many of the scenes depicted are scenes that our parents, grand parents and others would have witnessed and experienced.
Some of the quotes in the Life Magazine article stood out to me. A few are below.
“Although the Thorntons are thoughtful, and in private, articulate, they do not make many direct statements about segregation. This is because they face yet another restraint – the constant fear of publicly speaking their minds”
“Mr. Causey does not vote. He has never been able to master the reading of The Bill of Rights in the constitution, which all Negroes in his county must do before they are permitted to register.”
“They must tell their children, for example, that they cannot play in a nearby playground for whites but must use a “seperate but equal” one for Negroes. The children do not grasp the logic of this and view the white playground as a special, wonderful place from which they are being deliberately excluded.”
You can view some of the photos and read the backstory featured in The New York Times here:
You can view the original Life Magazine article here:
You can view more on Gordon Parks and his work here:
Sources: The New York Times, Life Magazine September 24, 1956 issue, Gordon Parks Foundation