Pleasantville, New York,
08:30 AM

Mark Bradford, Laurene Powell Jobs, Tonya Lewis Lee and Spike Lee, and Darren Walker will be honored with the Gordon Parks Foundation Award

Cora Taylor, Photographed by Gordon Parks in 1956 for Life Magazine’s Segregation Story, Will Also Be Celebrated at May 19 Dinner and Auction in New York City

Event to Feature Special Performance by Black Thought

The Gordon Parks Foundation announces the return of its Annual Awards Dinner and Auction celebrating Gordon Parks’s legacy and those continuing his commitment to advancing social justice today. Bringing together changemakers across film, the visual arts, and philanthropy, this year’s gala will honor artist Mark Bradford, Emerson Collective Founder and President Laurene Powell Jobs, film producer Tonya Lewis Lee and director Spike Lee, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. Additionally, the Foundation will celebrate Cora Taylor, who was recently identified as a subject in one of Parks’s best-known images from his 1956 Life magazine essay documenting segregation in the Jim Crow South.

The gala, which is being held at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on May 19, will include a live auction of Gordon Parks’s photographs. The night’s awards and honors will be presented by Anderson Cooper, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Jackson and Satchel Lee, Wynton Marsalis, and LaToya Ruby Frazier. Event co-chairs include Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean; Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault; Ava DuVernay; Agnes Gund; Judy and Leonard Lauder; Carol Sutton Lewis and William M. Lewis, Jr.; and Alexander Soros.

“Central to The Gordon Parks Foundation’s mission is a commitment to supporting emerging voices and visionary leaders advancing Parks’s humanitarian message today,” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation. “We recognize their vital contributions through our annual gala and ongoing initiatives that create opportunities for those working at the intersection of the arts and social justice.”

All proceeds from the evening will support year-round educational programming and The Gordon Parks Arts and Social Justice Fund, which provides fellowships, prizes, and scholarships to the next generation of artists, writers, and students whose work follows in Parks’s footsteps. 

Tickets are available starting at $1,500. They can be purchased on The Gordon Parks Foundation website, or by contacting Buckley Hall Events at or 914-579-1000.

Among those being honored on May 19 is special guest Cora Taylor, who was photographed by Parks in 1956 as part of his assignment for Life magazine, later known as Segregation Story. The image appeared in the September 23, 1956 issue of Life as part of a photo essay titled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” which had exposed the daily realities of Black Americans living under Jim Crow laws in the rural South. In the image titled At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama, Taylor appears at back right alongside her friend; to their left a man assists a group of children drinking from a water fountain labeled “Colored Only.” It’s an extremely rare occurrence to locate an anonymous subject from Parks’s photographs—particularly from this series, which was pursued at grave danger to the photographer himself. Segregation Story was first published as a book in 2014 after the images belonging to the series, thought to be lost since 1956, were rediscovered. An expanded edition of the book, featuring never-before-seen photographs, will be released in spring 2022 and is co-published by Gordon Parks Foundation and Steidl.

Now 84 years old and living in Los Angeles, Taylor had been aware of the photograph when it was published in Life in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until her niece contacted The Gordon Parks Foundation after seeing the image on view in Mobile, Alabama in early 2022 that the Foundation was able to gain her insight as a subject in this landmark series.

The Gordon Parks Foundation supports and produces artistic and educational initiatives that advance the legacy and vision of Gordon Parks—recognized as the most significant American photographer of the 20th century, as well as a writer, musician, and filmmaker, who used the arts to further “the common search for a better life and a better world.”

Through exhibitions, publications, and public programs organized in collaboration with national and international institutions at its exhibition space in Pleasantville, New York, the Foundation provides access to, and supports understanding of, the work and contributions of Gordon Parks for artists, scholars, students, and the public. Through its year-round educational programming and annual grant-making initiatives, the Foundation champions current and future generations of artists and humanitarians whose work carries on Parks’s legacy.

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, photographer, filmmaker, musician, and author Gordon Parks created a body of work that made him one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Beginning in the 1940s, he documented American life and culture with a focus on social justice, race relations, the civil rights movement, and the Black American experience. Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man. Despite his lack of professional training, he won a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1942; this led to a position with the photography section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., and later, the Office of War Information (OWI). By the mid-1940s, he was working as a freelance photographer for publications such as Vogue, Glamour, and Ebony. Parks was hired in 1948 as a staff photographer for Life magazine, where he spent more than two decades creating some of his most groundbreaking work. In 1969, he became the first Black American to write and direct a major feature film, The Learning Tree, based on his semi-autobiographical novel. His next directorial endeavor, Shaft (1971), helped define a genre known as Blaxploitation films. Parks continued photographing, publishing, and composing until his death in 2006.