MMofA brings the iconic photographs by Gordon Parks during the Jim Crow era back to the city

Posted on: November 10th, 2020

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956

Renowned photographs from Mobile during Jim Crow era at Mobile Museum of Art

MOBILE, Ala. – On January 16, 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.”

This exhibition is generously underwritten by Merceria Ludgood, Mobile County Commission District One, with additional support for this project’s educational outreach provided by The Altmayer Charitable Trust.  Support for this, and all museum exhibitions and programs, is provided by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the City of Mobile.

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956 is on view at the Mobile Museum of Art from January 16 to September 6, 2021. Throughout the exhibition, MMofA is also partnering with area African American organizations on programs in various disciplines: film, poetry, visual arts and civil rights history. This programming is supported 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. For more information, visit