The Hard Kind of Courage: Gordon Parks and the Photographers of the Civil Rights Era

September 16 - December 16, 2012
Amsden Gallery

On November 30, Wichita State University celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of photographer and Kansas native Gordon Parks. In honor of this centennial moment, the Ulrich will present an exhibition featuring Parks' images in the context of other photographers of the civil rights era.

The Hard Kind of Courage chronicles this crucial period in American social and political history--showing the struggles
and triumphs of those fighting for civil rights in the1960s. Poignant and deeply profound, the photographs encapsulate historical turning points such as the Freedom Rides to the Deep South, the March on Washington, the Sixteenth Street Church bombing, and the Selma-to-Montgomery March.
Photographers of the era were integral to advancing the movement by documenting the public and private acts of racial discrimination. Images taken by Parks and his contemporaries conveyed to average Americans the effects of racism in a very real way which helped to make the movement more than just an African American cause, but rather an American struggle, in the hearts and minds of millions.

The title phrase, The Hard Kind of Courage, comes from a 1958 short story written by esteemed African American author James Baldwin after his first visit to the South. Baldwin’s discovery conveys the spirit of the exhibitio--the ability of African Americans of the time to confront the fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, intimidation, and sometimes death that resulted from bigotry, yet have the strength of purpose to do what was best for themselves and others.

This exhibition was guest co-curated by Danielle Burns, curator at the Houston Public Library and the Houston Museum of African American Culture. The Menil Collection in Houston generously lent from its collection of civil rights-era photographs gifted by Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil.

The fourth event in the Gordon Parks Lecture Series at Wichita State University and the 2012 Centennial Celebration of Mr. Parks' life have been made possible by a generous lead gift from Shannon Michaud. Additional supporters include Mickey Armstrong, Joseph C. "Buz" and Katie Lukens, Jr., Mike Roach, Marni Stevens, Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Groves Retail Liquors. WSU’s Office of General Counsel and Office of Academic Affairs and Research have also contributed to the 2012 Centennial.

WSU Special Collections and University Archives will also present a display of Parks’ manuscripts and memorabilia from his papers. Visit WSU’s Ablah Library or visit the website dedicated to the Parks’ Papers at

This Centennial Celebration also includes a book-release party for Gordon Parks Centennial: His Legacy at Wichita State University, a 68-page scholarly publication acknowledging
the strength of the university’s holdings, both archival and artistic, related to Parks.

Public programs on Gordon Parks are supported by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit organization
that supports community-based programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making programs and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. For more information, visit

Gordon Parks, 'Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama,' 1956. Cibachrome print, 15 1/2 x 15 1/2 in. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita. Museum Purchase

Dan Budnik, 'Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth outside the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama,' 1965. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 in. The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil © Dan Budnik 2012