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Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (Nov. 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006); American photographer, musician, writer and film director, who became prominent in US documentary photojournalism in the 1940s through 1970s—particularly in issues of civil rights, poverty and African-Americans—and in glamour photography.
As the first famous pioneer among black filmmakers, he was the first African American to produce and direct major motion pictures—developing films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, and creating the "blaxploitation" genre. He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor Americans during the 1940s (taken for a federal government project), for his photographic essays for Life magazine, and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft. Parks also was an author, poet and composer.
Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of Sarah (née Ross) and Jackson Parks... He was the youngest of 15 children. His father was a farmer who grew corn, beets, turnips, potatoes, collard greens, and tomatoes. They also had a few ducks, chickens, and hogs.
He attended a segregated elementary school. The town was too small to afford a separate high school that would facilitate segregation of the secondary school, but blacks were not allowed to play sports or attend school social activities, and they were discouraged from developing any aspirations for higher education. Parks related in a documentary on his life that his teacher told him that his desire to go to college would be a waste of money.
...His mother died when he was 14. He spent his last night at the family home sleeping beside his mother's coffin, seeking not only solace, but a way to face his own fear of death.
...Parks was a co-founder of Essence magazine and served as editorial director the first 3 years.
...He died of cancer at the age of 93 while living in Manhattan, New York City, and is buried in his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas.