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Nearly 200 Items Added To WSU's Digital Gordon Parks Collection

Special Collections & University Archives at Pittsburg State University
Gordon Parks Filming The Learning Tree, Fort Scott, Kan., 1968. Photograph by Norman E. Tanis.

It's been nearly a decade since Wichita State University acquired the 100-box collection of famed photographer, writer and director Gordon Parks.

His son David Parks visited KMUW last week and says he's pleased that researchers are delving into his dad's work.

Gordon Parks' 1969 drama "The Learning Tree" was the first major motion picture directed by an African-American. The film, which was shot in Kansas, is a coming-of-age story that illustrates growing up and facing racial discrimination in rural parts of the state during the late 1920s.

Credit Gordon Parks Papers, Wichita State University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
Selections from the Learning Tree scene drawing books by artist John Solie and used by Gordon Parks for the film based on his novel, circa 1968.

Parks had written a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name in 1963. David Parks says his dad's writing took off after "The Learning Tree."

"His first draft, second draft, third – that’s all there," he says. "[It's] pretty interesting to see how he edited himself and how he worked."

David says his father would often ask his children to look things over.

"The minute we'd walk through the door he’d have a manuscript in our hand saying, 'Check it out, make sure all the words are spelled right and all the information makes sense.' So we did a lot of proofreading for him," he says.

Nearly 200 items from the WSU Gordon Parks collection are currently accessible online.


Carla Eckels is interim news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

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