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Gordon Parks was a black African American director, writer, musician, and photographer from the 1940s to the 2000s. He born in Kansas in 1912, the youngest of 15 children, and his family was very poor. After a series of menial jobs including train porter, he took up photography, and from 1948 to 1968 he contributed photo-essays to Life Magazine, often about civil rights, and about the effects of poverty. In 1969 he wrote an autobiography about his youth, The Learning Tree, and he wrote, directed, produced and composed the music for the film adaptation, which is considered to be the first mainstream movie from a major studio directed by an African American. Two years later he directed one of the first blaxploitation movies, and likely the most successful and best-remembered, Shaft, plus its first sequel, Shaft's Big Score. In 1989, when the U.S. Library of Congress picked the first 25 films to be preserved in the National Film Registry, The Learning Tree was one of those selected. Parks passed away in 2006 at the age of 93.
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