This Is The Side Of 1950s Segregation That Most Of Us Never Saw (IMAGES)

On Saturday, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia opened an exhibit featuring the work of renowned African American photographer Gordon Parks. The featured collection is called “Restraints: Open and Hidden” and captures the lives of three African American families living in Alabama during the 1950s.

Parks had passed away from cancer in 2006; however his photographs were rediscovered in 2012. He was a self-taught artist that used photography as a way to create change and dismantle prejudice. His segregation-themed photographs were first published in 1956 – just a year after Rosa Parks chose not to give up her seat on the bus. The civil rights movement had been triggered, and social barriers were being challenged.

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Parks used his photography to fight common beliefs associated with segregation. For example, many people believed that black and white people were not supposed to have any physical contact, which wasn’t true. Although many of Parks’ images do show the effects of racism – such as photos portraying “Colored” entrances – life wasn’t nearly as separated as so many believe. In actuality, the different races mixed often because work and leisure demanded it.

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

For many Americans, segregation is something that happened a long time ago. It’s easier to create distance from such a socially oppressed time when the photos are black and white – as it seems to lengthen the perception of time that’s passed. Parks purposefully took color photographs to make this time period more recognizable and to stand out from the predominantly black and white photographs of that era.

Even Parks’ subject matter was unique. Instead of photographing milestones in civil rights history – protests, violence, rallies – Parks focused on the quieter moments, which revealed that the races were similar and most of all – equal. In an article for The New York Times, Maurice Berger wrote that Parks’ series challenged the myth that “the races are innately unequal, a delusion that allows one group to declare its superiority over another by capriciously ascribing to it negative traits, abnormalities or pathologies.”

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Photo Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Parks’ collection of 1950s photographs are an important reminder of the connection humans have with one another – one that transcends race. This photo essay is particularly important when we’re reminded every day that more and more unarmed black men are being killed or going to prison, and racism is still alive. Parks had once said:

“I’ve been asked if I think there will ever come a time when all people come together. I would like to think there will. All we can do is hope and dream and work toward that end. And that’s what I’ve tried to do all my life.”

Parks’ exhibition is running from now until June 7th, 2015 at The High Museum of Art.