Voices in the Mirror Essay - Critical Context

Gordon Parks Sr.

Critical Context

Parks’s photographs, paintings, poetry, books, musical compositions, and films met with critical acclaim throughout his multifaceted career. Voices in the Mirror was no exception. Critics were practically unanimous in calling it an interesting book because it was expertly written by a man who was himself his most fascinating character. Critic Phoebe-Lou Adams called Parks’s autobiography “a superb example of what talent, courage and determination can accomplish against odds.” Michael Eric Dyson’s review in The New York Times commented that “through the power of his words, this intelligent and sensitive interpreter of human experience has now turned the mirror toward us as well as himself; we, like Mr. Parks, must be judged by the integrity of our response to what we hear and see. Let us hope that we are half as successful as he has been.”

Parks’s autobiography demonstrates to readers of all races that African Americans have no reason to feel inferior to anyone. Even the most bigoted reader is forced to acknowledge that Parks’s record of successes in a wide variety of difficult endeavors has been rivaled by few whites. Parks writes from an elevated standpoint; his own life is proof of the principles he preaches.

For African Americans, Parks’s message is clear. Even the most disadvantaged has no cause to despair; the doors of opportunity can be forced open if one is willing to work hard, to learn the skills needed for success, and to refuse to be intimidated by hostility, ridicule, or rejection. Above all, Parks’s autobiography demonstrates that young African Americans can accept any challenge life has to offer and can share equally in the cultural riches of the entire world.