He aimed his camera lens at fashion models and at struggling African-American workers.
Parks, a talented and multifaceted man, was born in the Midwest in 1915 and attended a school where the white teacher told the black students that they would “all end up porters and waiters.” But Parks, at 25, was inspired by a magazine article and spent $7.50 on a used camera. He went on to work in Washington, D.C., for the Farm Security Administration, capturing pictures of African-Americans in their everyday lives—not the white men of the monuments. Famously, he portrayed a cleaning lady name Ella Watson in a portrait that became known as his American Gothic. Echoing the farmers in Grant Woods’ painting, Watson posed in front of an American flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in the other. Weatherford writes in the present tense with intensity, carefully choosing words that concisely evoke the man. Christoph’s digitally rendered illustrations brilliantly present Parks’ world through strong linear images and montages of his photographs. One double-page spread hauntingly portrays run-down buildings with the Capitol Dome hovering in the distance.
Parks’ photography gave a powerful and memorable face to racism in America; this book gives him to young readers. (afterword, author’s note, photographs) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)