October 19 presentation to explore impact of Gordon Parks 

The impact and inspiration of three books by Gordon Parks, a native of Fort Scott, Kansas, who became one of the most esteemed image makers of all time, will be discussed in a special presentation by Humanities Kansas at Pittsburg State University’s Axe Library on Oct. 19. 

The presentation, “Learning from Gordon Parks,” will begin at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public as this year’s offering for the DeGruson Memorial Lecture Series. 

Parks, a Black author, photographer, and filmmaker born into poverty and segregation in 1912, would go on to become known on a national scale for his documentation of American life and culture.  

In this presentation, Ann Dean will discuss “The Learning Tree,” “A Choice of Weapons,” and “Half Past Autumn” — books that help illustrate Parks’ mother’s teachings centered in love, dignity, and hard work. Dean is an artist and freelance photographer who teaches photography classes at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence, Kansas.  

The topics provide a starting point to talk about Parks’ struggles, choices, and triumphs — all great life lessons for those searching to find their way in this complicated world. 

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs,” Parks once said. “I knew at that point I had to have a camera.” 

His 1948 photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader won him widespread acclaim and a position as the first African American staff photographer for Life, where he would work for two decades, taking photographs of legendary figures.  

His most famous photos would help rally support for the Civil Rights movement and would define a generation. 

“Learning from Gordon Parks” is part of Humanities Kansas’s Speakers Bureau and “21st Century Civics,” a collection of resources that invite Kansans to participate in community discussions and learn more about the history of American democracy and the shared responsibilities of citizenship.  

The program is made possible by Humanities Kansas and the Friends of Leonard H. Axe Library. 

The event will take place in the basement of Axe Library, 1605 S. Joplin Street. Parking is available in front of the library on Joplin Street, and in the lot behind the library. 

For more information, contact University Archivist Sara DeCaro in University Special Collections & Archives at 620-235-4883, or email sdecaro@pittstate.edu 

About Humanities Kansas 

Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit leading a movement of ideas to empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. Since 1972, programming, grants, and partnerships have documented and shared stories to spark conversations and generate insights.  

— Media release from Pittsburg State University —