In 1956, Life magazine published twenty-six color photographs taken by staff photographer Gordon Parks. The photo essay, titled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” exposed Americans to the effects of racial segregation. Parks focused his attention on a multigenerational family from Alabama. His photographs captured the Thornton family’s everyday struggles to overcome discrimination.
Parks, born in Kansas in 1912, grew up experiencing poverty and racism firsthand. Despite this, he went on to blaze a trail as a seminal photojournalist, writer, filmmaker, and musician. In 1948, Parks became the first African American photographer to work for Life magazine, the preeminent news publication of the day. This series represents one of Parks’s earliest social documentary studies on color film.