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February 18, 2011

Gordon Parks, photographer, composer, writer, filmmaker, activist

Filed under: African American, Book Excerpt, MHS press — Pamela McClanahan @ 8:12 am

php7hvpXEIn 1928, sixteen-year-old Gordon Parks arrived alone on a train¬†in St. Paul with plans to live with his sister after his mother’s untimely death. In St. Paul, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to fulfill his dreams.

In his compelling autobiography, A Choice of Weapons, Parks, who went on to fame as the first African American to work at Life magazine and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film, reported that he told an interviewer in 1999, “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

In a new foreword to the book,¬†contemporary photographer Wing Young Huie writes, “St. Paul served as an incubator for us [Parks and Huie] both. I had dreamed of becoming a photographer in my early twenties, but it wasn’t until fifteen years later that I finally committed to the idea and set about doing it. I made many excuses along the way, but none of my barriers–real or self-imposed–were even as remotely challenging as the obstacles Gordon faced. His spectacular rise from poverty, personal hardships, and outright racism is astounding and inspiring.”

The MHS Press is proud to publish Parks’s poignant coming-of-age memoir, which has been embraced by many throughout the United States, from high schools in Los Angeles to community centers in New York City.

Enjoy this excerpt from an early chapter in the book, set during Parks’s first months in St. Paul.

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