PRINCIPAL’S BOOK OF THE MONTH – FEBRUARY 2016
Gordon Parks, How the Photographer Captured Black and White America
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Jamie Christoph
Summary: In the book Gordon Parks, How the Photographer Captured Black and White America, Gordon’s white teacher tells her all-black class, “You’ll all wind up porters and waiters.” What did she know? Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice. This beautifully illustrated book gives an in depth look at segregation through the lens of an artistic genius. Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way.
Discussion Topics and Writing Activities:
- Discuss what students (1) know about segregation (2) don’t know about segregation.
- Discuss ways students have experienced segregation or prejudice. Describe how individuals or groups may have different perspectives and why.
- Ask students: What is an example of a time when you believed differently from someone else (your friend) and acted on that belief? What happened? Did you change your belief? Did your friend change his/her belief?
- Discuss themes. What is the theme of this book? How could students use this theme in their lives?
- Assign selected words from the story that are grade-level appropriate. Assign two words to pairs of students. Ask students to create flash cards that explain and illustrate what each word means. Use the flashcards to create a Gordon Parks bulletin board using such words as racism, prejudice, editor, and photographer.
- Have students write a book review including the following: Description of the beginning, middle, and ending of the story. Persuade readers to read the book.
Pre-K – 1st Grade – Please adjust the lesson activities to fit your grade level. For example, have your students draw and write a caption, paragraph or respond to part of the question.