IN WINTER 2016, three Wichita museums partner with simultaneous exhibitions devoted to Gordon Parks, a Kansas native and one of the most celebrated African American artists of his time. Parks (1912–2006) was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist, and film director.
He worked from 1948 to 1972 as a staff photographer at Life magazine, the most influential magazine of the era. Later, he continued to work with Life on contract, as his film and writing projects flourished. He was the first African American photographer hired by this journal and regularly assigned projects exploring the contested race relations of the day. The images and stories he contributed are recognized for the humanizing perspective of African American cultural experience that he brought to mainstream America in the pages of Life
During the 1940s, Gordon Parks worked for the Farm Securities Administration/Office of War Information documenting factory workers, soldiers leaving Union Station and women working at munitions plants. One of his assignments was photographing interracial camps in New York
These rarely seen photographs of black children and white children eating, working and playing together, are a testament to the optimism and hope of youth, unfettered by racial bias and the culture of fear black people experienced in the South and other parts of the country.