Back to Fort Scott, 1950 - Photography Archive - The Gordon Parks Foundation

Pool Hall, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1950

A year after Life hired him, the magazine sent Parks back to Fort Scott, Kansas, where he had spent his first 16 years, attending the town’s small segregated schools. His assignment was to find the 11 members of his junior high school graduation class and discover what had become of them in the more than 20 years that had elapsed since his departure. While Parks found the town itself little changed, his classmates had followed diverse paths. Some had remained in Fort Scott; some had moved away, to Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis; and some were married—even to each other. Parks regarded most of these reunions with a joyful, nostalgic eye, but encountering Mazel Morgan cast the project in darker terms. She had moved to Chicago, where Parks found her nursing wounds freshly delivered by her drug dealer.

Later that year, while in Paris with his wife and children, Parks received word that “Fort Scott Revisited”—which was to be the magazine’s cover story—was shelved. Fearing it would remain hidden for good, Parks moved on, and opened a new chapter of his life and career in Europe. The Fort Scott photographs and accompanying essay would indeed remain unpublished, a melancholy document for his mind alone.