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Gordon Parks's The Learning Tree

Gordon Parks Directing Dana Elcar on the set of the Learning Tree

By Tanisha Crump and Rachel Wrobel, Students at Kansas State University 

Gordon Parks, born and raised in Kansas, grew up surrounded by the oppression of racism. Parks exhibits the racial harassment that he had to face through the lives and experiences of his characters in The Learning Tree, as they are embedded in similarly distressing systems of racial power. These oppressive systems led Parks to a life of photography and film where he used his experiences to spark his passion and interest. Kirky, an important character in The Learning Tree, is a primal symbol of the racism Parks experienced.

In this photo, Parks is conversing onset with the actor who played Kirky. Parks, seeming pretty happy, shows how his constant battles of racism did not force him into the same racial hold against those white individuals. In the film, we see how Parks depicts Kirky as the racist sheriff who has it out for most African Americans. Kirky, throughout the film, is the one who enforces most of the laws onto the young African American teen boys, showing how most teen boys in Parks' era were harassed by those that were meant to protect all citizens.

Note: This description of the image, was completed as part of  this assignment.

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