Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Gordon Parks, Sr., developed a successful career as a photographer before writing nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and music. Born on a farm in Kansas, the youngest of Sarah and Andrew Parks’s fifteen children, Parks spent the first sixteen years of his life in the close-knit safety of a loving family. When his mother died, however, he was sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, where his circumstances changed drastically. After briefly living with a sister and her husband, he dropped out of high school and became independent, working at a variety of jobs from playing piano in a brothel to playing semiprofessional basketball.
In 1933, at the age of twenty-one, Parks joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and married Sally Alvis. When his time with the CCC ended, he became a railroad pullman porter. It was during this time that he bought his first camera and began to learn the skills of photography. A series of photographs with which he chronicled ghetto life in Chicago won him a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1941. He moved to Washington, D.C., to work at the Farm Security Administration in 1942, and, after devoting himself for a time to the reading he had missed when his formal education was interrupted, he became a correspondent for the Office of War Information.
His first book, Flash Photography, had a long gestation period during which he repeatedly reworded the book. The experience nearly convinced him that he was not a writer, but he...
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