This expanded edition of Gordon Parks: Segregation Story includes several previously unpublished photographs, as well as enhanced reproductions created from Parks’s original color transparencies. A selection of twenty-six images from Segregation Story first appeared in the September 24, 1956, issue of Life magazine as part of a photo essay titled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden.” Although some of these were exhibited during his lifetime, the bulk of Parks’s assignment was thought to be lost. In 2011, five years after Parks’s death, the Gordon Parks Foundation found more than two hundred color transparencies belonging to the series. Images from these were originally published in 2014, and in the years since, new photographs have been uncovered and significant improvements have been made to reproductions of this pivotal body of work.
With its vivid color pictures, the series offers a fresh perspective on a most controversial period in American history, which looms large in the collective memory almost exclusively through black-and-white imagery. Parks’s empathetic approach eschewed the journalism that focused on the leaders and momentous events of the struggle for civil rights, and instead portrayed the common humanity of his fellow Americans going about daily life in unjust circumstances. Pursued at grave danger to the photographer himself, the project was an important chapter in Parks’s career-long endeavor to use the camera as a weapon for social change.
This edition of Segregation Story also includes newly discovered descriptions Parks wrote for the photographs. Edited by Michal Raz-Russo and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. and featuring previously published texts by the late art historian Maurice Berger and the esteemed journalist and civil rights activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, as well as a new essay by artist Dawoud Bey.