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A Choice of Weapons

A Choice of Weapons

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Author Gordon Parks, Foreword by Wing Young Huie

Minnesota Historical Society Press (January 15, 2010)


“Gordon Parks’s spectacular rise from poverty, personal hardships, and outright racism is astounding and inspiring.”—from the foreword by Wing Young Huie


Gordon Parks (1912–2006)—the groundbreaking photographer, writer, composer, activist, and filmmaker—was only sixteen in 1928 when he moved from Kansas to St. Paul, Minnesota, after his mother’s death. There, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to fulfill his potential dream.

This compelling autobiography, first published in 1966, now back in print by popular demand and with a new foreword by Wing Young Huie, tells how Parks managed to escape the poverty and bigotry around him and to launch his distinguished career by choosing the weapons given him by “a mother who placed love, dignity, and hard work over hatred.” Parks, the first African American to work at Life magazine and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film, told an interviewer in 1999, “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

Book Discussion Guide by Hennepin County Library and One Minneapolis One Read Program

Read an excerpt from A Choice of Weapons

Gordon Parks, Collections Item of the Day

MNopedia: Gordon Parks

Also of interest: Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota

Author information

Gordon Parks (1912 – 2006) – photographer for Life magazine, writer, composer, artist and filmmaker – was only 16 in 1928 when he moved from Kansas to Saint Paul, Minn., after his mother’s death. There, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to “prove my worth.” Working as a janitor, railroad porter, musician, or basketball player in such places as Saint Paul, Chicago and New York, Parks struggled against poverty and racism. He taught himself photography with a secondhand camera, worked for black newspapers, and began to document the poverty among African Americans on Chicago’s South Side. Then his photographic work brought him to Washington, D.C., as first a photographer with the federal Farm Security Administration and later a war correspondent during World War II.

Wing Young Huie is a photographer, an author, and the owner of Third Place Gallery in Minneapolis.

Reviews and news

Praise for A Choice of Weapons:

“A perceptive narrative of one man’s struggle to realize the values (defined as democratic and especially American) he has been taught to respect.”
New York Times Book Review

“A lean, well-written memoir.”

MN90: Gordon Parks, Renaissance Man

  • 296 pages
  • 5.5 x 8.25 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873517690

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