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David Parks, noted photographer, film director and son of Gordon Parks, visiting K-State Sept. 26-27

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019


MANHATTAN — David Parks, an American photographer, film director and author, will be a guest on the Kansas State University campus Sept. 25-27. Parks is the son of the late photographer, filmmaker, director, composer and author Gordon Parks.

Parks will deliver a lecture, "The Learning Tree' at 50: Gordon Parks' Son David Parks Reflects on His Father's Classic Work," at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in Town Hall at the Staley School of Leadership Studies. The lecture is free and the public is invited.

"The Learning Tree" is a 1969 American film written and directed by Gordon Parks, a native of Fort Scott, who became prominent in U.S. documentary photojournalism in the 1940s through the 1970s. He was the first African American to produce and direct major motion pictures in the U.S. The film depicts the life of Newt Winger, a teenager growing up in Cherokee Flats, Kansas, in the 1920s. "The Learning Tree" is based on Gordon Parks' semiautobiographical novel of the same name, which was published in 1963.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, David Parks now lives in Austin, Texas. He attended the Storm King School in Cornwall on Hudson, New York, and Ricker College in Houlton, Maine. In 1965, he began a two-year tour in the U.S. Army, including eight months in combat in the Vietnam War. His book, "GI Diary," is a collection of writings and photographs documenting his experience as an African American soldier in the war. Published in 1968 by Harper & Row, it became one of the top-10 best-selling books of that year. Parks received two Purple Hearts.

After his military service, he attended and graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied film and photo illustration. His photographs illustrate a collection of poems, "On Our Way: Poems of Pride and Love," published by Random House in 1974.

In addition to his books, Parks' photographs have been published in Time-Life Art/Photography books as well as Ebony, Look, Vogue and Glamour magazines.

His documentary/short film credits include "Buffalo Soldiers, 9th Cavalry Memorial," "Texas Artists Pilot Projects: Martin Kramer and Ralph White," "Jose Antonio Navarro House," "African Art and Repression" and "Prince Charles: A Texas Celebration."

Parks returns to Kansas annually to participate in activities honoring his late father. He will take part in the Gordon Parks Celebration Days Oct. 3-5, highlighting the 50th anniversary of "The Learning Tree," at Fort Scott Community College.

His visit is co-sponsored by the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Department of Art, the Department of English, the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art and the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The Beach Museum of Art has two unique collections of photographs by Gordon Parks in its permanent collection.

"The Learning Tree: A Gordon Parks Archive Project" is an online resource designed to help the public, students and scholars explore Gordon Parks' "The Learning Tree" as both a novel and film. It is available at scalar.usc.edu/works/gordon-parks/index. Project editors are  Katy Karlin and Cameron Leader-Picone, both associate professors of English at K-State.

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David Parks

David Parks will be on the Kansas State University campus Sept. 26-27 and will deliver a lecture about his famed father's novel "The Learning Tree."

Written by

Gloria Freeland