Mobile Museum of Art brings iconic photos of Mobile during Jim Crow era back to city

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. – On Jan. 16, 2021, The Mobile Museum of Art is bringing the iconic photographs by Gordon Parks during the Jim Crow era back to the city where they were captured with the special exhibition, Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956.

This exhibition of photographs documents the everyday activities and rituals of one extended black family, the Thorntons, in Mobile and Shady Grove, Ala., during segregation. The images were originally published in a 1956 photo essay by Parks, an assignment from Life magazine after the Montgomery bus boycotts, but have come to be known around the world for helping to inspire the Civil Rights movement.

In an essay accompanying the portfolio of photographs Segregation Story produced in 2012 by The Gordon Parks Foundation, noted American cultural historian and art critic Maurice Berger says, “These quiet, compelling photographs elicit a reaction that Parks believed was critical to undoing racial prejudice: empathy. Throughout his career, he endeavored to help viewers, white and black, understand and share the feelings of others. It was with this goal in mind that he set out to document the lives of the Thornton family, creating images meant to alter the way Americans viewed one another and, ultimately, themselves.”

This exhibition is underwritten by Merceria Ludgood, Mobile County Commission District One, with additional support for this project’s educational outreach provided by The Altmayer Charitable Trust. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the City of Mobile.

Gordon Parks: Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956 is on view at the Mobile Museum of Art from Jan. 16 to Sept. 6, 2021. Throughout the exhibition, MMofA is also partnering with area African American organizations on programs in various disciplines: film, poetry, visual arts and civil rights history. The programming is supported by Mobile City Council members Joel Daves (District 5), Gina Gregory (District 7), Bess Rich (District 6), Frederick D. Richardson, Jr. (District 1), C.J. Small (District 3), and John C. Williams (District 4). Williams will support a lecture by Dr. John Edwin Mason, author of an upcoming book on Gordon Parks. For more information, visit

The Mobile Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on all city holidays.


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