When Gordon Parks set out to photograph school segregation for Life magazine in 1950, four years before Brown v. Board of Education, the self-taught artist and first black staff photographer at the magazine returned to Fort Scott, Kansas. He’d grown up there amid Jim Crow racism and decided to tell the story through his former classmates. But many had left in the Great Migration, and so it was in Chicago that he tracked down Margaret Wilkerson and her daughter, Barbara. Life never ran this photograph of the Wilkersons, published here for the first time, or any others from the assignment, but they’ll be on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in January. Parks wanted to present a balanced view of black families, says Karen Haas, curator of the new exhibit. “This family seems like a very hopeful example,” she says. “There was much to be optimistic about.”
"A Harlem Family 1967" honors the legacy and the work of late iconic artist and photojournalist Gordon Parks, who would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. The exhibition catalogue is co-published by The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Gordon Parks Foundation and features approximately 80 black-and-white photographs of the Fontenelle family, whose lives Gordon Parks documented as part of a 1968 Life magazine photo essay. A searing portrait of poverty in the United States, the Fontenelle photographs provide a view of Harlem through the narrative of a specific family at a particular moment in time.