He Believed "The Camera Could Be A Weapon Against Racism"

picture of gordon parks
Via Flickr
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
November 25, 2021

Gordon Parks knew a picture was worth more than 1,000 words: photographs could be weapons to fight white supremacy. Some saw his career, as a self-taught turned famous photographer, as a way out of the segregated South. But he knew it was a way in ...

An artist turned activist, Parks’ photographs from 1940-1960 rocked the nation with their honesty and energized the Civil Rights movement. Parks photographed influential Black figures, but his documentation of Black laborers and families navigating segregation were what exposed America's true colors.

One powerful example was his photographs of the “Doll Test,” where Black children were asked to choose which doll, white or Black, was “pretty,” “smart,” and “good.” 

Most children chose the white doll. And in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court cited this test, including Parks’ photos, when they ruled segregation was unconstitutional!

Today, we have multiple creative outlets to document Black narratives: photography, writing, film, podcasts, social media – you name it! It’s our responsibility to share Black stories; telling our truths is how we expose white supremacy’s lies.

We must not let white supremacy rewrite our narratives: they’ll harm us and say we enjoyed it; erase us and say we were never here. Like Parks, we must use innovative methods to document our narratives and to incite change by sharing our stories!

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