“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me,” Ralph Ellison wrote in his 1952 novel, Invisible Man. A classic of twentieth century American literature, Ellison explores the complexity of being a black man living under Jim Crow laws in the United States.
At the same time, one man was making visible previously unpublicized worlds, the world of African American experience. That man was photographer Gordon Parks, and the medium to reach the masses was LIFE magazine. Parks and Ellison were friends as well as comrades in the struggle, using art as a means to raise consciousness.
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Photo: Gordon Parks. Untitled (Harlem, New York), 1952. Anonymous gift. © The Gordon Parks Foundation.