Hopefully, the singular event of January 20, 2009 will result in a huge step in the direction of making Black History Month a memory of the past. I believe that will be up to us to help make that happen.
My contribution to helping make that happen and in keeping with the GOT ART? theme of my blog, is to introduce or re-introduce to you, some famous African American Artists throughout the month.
Stillborn with no heartbeat, declared dead by the family doctor, and put aside for later burial, another doctor in the delivery room had an idea to immerse the newborn in ice-cold water. The shock caused his heart to start beating and the baby was soon crying, healthy, and named for Dr. Gordon, who had saved his life.
At 25, Parks bought his first camera and began working as a self-taught freelance photographer, focusing on everything from fashion to the effects the depression in Chicago's slums. The photo clerks that developed his first roll of film applauded his work and prompted Parks to get a fashion assignment at Frank Murphy's women's clothing store. Every frame was double exposed with the exception of the one shot that caught Joe Louis' wife, Marva Louis' eye. Marva encouraged Parks to move to Chicago to begin a portrait business for society women.
By 1944, Parks was the only Black photographer working for Vogue and in 1948 he became the first Black photographer (for 20 years) at Life magazine, the most prestigious magazine of its day for photography.
Parks was the first African American to write, direct, and produce a film for a major motion picture company.
In 1966, Parks published the first of three autobiographies, A Choice of Weapons. This autobiography tells of his struggle to survive whole after his mother's death. Park's mother died when he was 15 years old.
Parks wrote many musical compositions, including blues tunes and popular songs in his early career, and frequently incorporated his music into his films. Conversely, he wrote several film scores and then adapted the music afterward for their separate release. Among these were Tree Symphony from The Learning Tree and "Don't Misunderstand" from Shaft's Big Score.
He composed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Piece for Cello and Orchestra, Five Piano Sonatas and Celebrations for Sarah Ross and Andrew Jackson Parks. He created the music and libretto for a five-act ballet entitled Martin in 1989. The ballet was a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., which premiered in Washington, D.C. Martin later aired on national television on King's birthday in 1990.
Between 1968 and 1996, Gordon Parks received honorary degrees from the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts, Pratt Institute, Syracuse University School of Journalism, Boston University School of Public Communication, Colby College, Lincoln University, Rutgers University, Kansas City Art Institute in 1984, Art Center College of Design, Hamline University, American International College, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the University of the District of Columbia.
"I've known both misery and happiness, lived in so many different skins it is impossible for one skin to claim me. And I have felt like a wayfarer on an alien planet at times walking, running, wondering about what brought me to this particular place, and why. But once I was here the dreams started moving in, and I went about devouring them as they devoured me"
Gordon Parks died of cancer on March 7, 2006 at the age of 93 in New York City.