The history of American racial integration is marked in our memory by images of seminal events: the assassination of MLK, his speech before the Washington Monument, George Wallace blocking the door to the University of Alabama. That is not to forget the numerous photos of lynchings, along with reminders of the risks endured by activists. Gordon Parks, a Life magazine photographer during the movement, recorded segregation and racism without reference to its iconic moments or extremes of horror. Focusing on the quotidian realities of black life, Parks cast a new and powerful image of the past in a 1956 photo essay. The series delved deeply into the separate society that Jim Crow segregation created. Twenty photos were published, but a further seventy have been found. Check out this New York Times piece and slideshow on Park’s rediscovered work.
The Life edition where Parks’ photo essay originally appeared is available through Google Books. The advertisements are a must-see for Mad Men fans, and the magazine can give an idea of what Parks’ public was accustomed to.