Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956

Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia, 1956, Archival pigment print.

Text: Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia, 1956, Archival pigment print.

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956

January 16 – December 31, 2021

Mobile Museum of Art brings the iconic photographs by Gordon Parks during the Jim Crow era back to the city where they were captured with the special exhibition, Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956.

This exhibition of photographs documents the everyday activities and rituals of one extended black family, the Thorntons, in Mobile and Shady Grove, Alabama, during segregation. The images were originally published in a 1956 photo essay by Parks, an assignment from Life magazine after the Montgomery bus boycotts, but have come to be known around the world for helping to inspire the Civil Rights movement.

In an essay accompanying the portfolio of photographs Segregation Story produced in 2012 by The Gordon Parks Foundation, noted American cultural historian and art critic Maurice Berger explains,

“These quiet, compelling photographs elicit a reaction that Parks believed was critical to undoing racial prejudice: empathy. Throughout his career, he endeavored to help viewers, white and black, understand and share the feelings of others. It was with this goal in mind that he set out to document the lives of the Thornton family, creating images meant to alter the way Americans viewed one another and, ultimately, themselves.”

These photographs are lent to MMofA by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

 Exhibition generously underwritten by Mobile County Commissioner, Merceria Ludgood

Title 1 school program support for the project from the Altmayer Foundation

Community Programming support by Mobile City Council members:  Joel Daves (District 5), Gina Gregory (District 7), Bess Rich (District 6), Frederick D. Richardson, Jr. (District 1), C.J. Small (District 3), and John C. Williams (District 4).  Mr. Williams will support a lecture by Dr. John Edwin Mason, author of an upcoming book on Gordon Parks.


Content created for the special exhibition

Toward Equal Justice: A Conversation

Generous support for this video provided by Art Bridges.


Gallery guides provided

Toward Equal Justice: A Legacy of Resistance, Sacrifice, and Service
Timeline of Mobile Civil Rights events and African American history created in conjunction with special exhibition, Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956.

NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS TIMELINE: A Selection of Some of the Movement’s Most Important Events

GORDON PARKS: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956