Here, Parks tackles issues of race in a visibly bold manner, reminiscent of his work Washington, D.C. Government charwoman (American Gothic).
Parks took this picture on assignment for Ebony magazine in 1947 for an article called, “Problem Kids: New Harlem clinic rescues ghetto youth from emotional short circuit.” The article featured the work of psychiatrists Mamie and Kenneth Clark, whose “doll test” research investigated issues of segregation and self-esteem in black children. African American children in segregated schools were shown a black doll and a white doll and then asked to choose one. The majority picked the white doll, indicating that segregation impacted the children’s feelings of self-worth. Their research, while not wholly scientific, was used in school desegregation lawsuits including Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
Imagine you are the editor of Ebony magazine. Would you have chosen to include this image in your story? Why or why not?
Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, image: 17.78 × 17.46 cm (7 × 6 7/8 in.), sheet: 20.32 × 18.42 cm (8 × 7 1/4 in.), The Gordon Parks Foundation, GP04135. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation