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Words About Pictures: More National Book Festival Visitor Comments

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We are still savoring the comments visitors to the National Book Festival offered last fall while viewing sample photographs from our collections.  This visitor’s comments seem particularly apt as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month.

The commenter recognized the well-known subject of the photograph, educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune served as director of the Office of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, where she helped coordinate projects to extend employment opportunities to African Americans.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder and former president and director of the NYA (National Youth Administration) Negro Relations, Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida.
“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder and former president and director of the NYA (National Youth Administration) Negro Relations, Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida.” Photo by Gordon Parks, 1943 January.

The details mentioned by this visitor and others who viewed the photograph  suggest that both Bethune, in the arrangement of her office, and Gordon Parks, in working with her to make this portrait, realized the power of pictures.

What do you see in the picture? Are there any details people might miss at first glance?

“In the photograph, you have a distinguished American, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.  This is taken at Bethune-Cookman College by Gordon Parks.  I am noticing the various photos on the wall (Madam C. J. Walker, Langston Hughes, Franklin Roosevelt).”

What do you think that the photographer was trying to show?

“Mr. Parks in his photograph shows the dignity of his subject, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.”

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Comments (3)

  1. WhAT a BLESSING and cherished moment to have the privilege to see another glimpse of the AMpeRATURE of the photgrapghic genius of GOrdAn PArkS documenting the efforts and servieces of someone the MARY McCLOUD BETHUNE. thank you, so very much – for this time-less keepsake.
    And for the RECORD, it’s these types of splices, that make me just LOVE my couuntry all / all over, again.
    furhter, these are the kinds of things that help to distinguish us, in the eyes of the global and domestic circles of HUMANITY, as being one of the greatest civilizations, EVER known !!! I / we can not THANk YOU all enough, for deeds and releases such, as these- AMERicANA, at it’s best –
    From a Navy Veteran, just thank again, to the LIBRARY of CONGRESS an all those who helped this share to be made possible-

    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad-Exercise 2012

  2. I have posted this on facebook, twitter, Stumbled Upon, Google Bookmark and Yahoo’s Bookmark, I will be cherishing this photographic collection for many seasons to come and hope that others in my network circles, will also.
    the people at UMKC are having a conference and new film next month: and I’ll be emailing the particulars about this incredible FIND, that I found mySELf, totally lost and absorbed into !!!! thank you, again


  3. Your style is very unique compared to other people I’ve read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this site.

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