black woman standing in front of American flag; broom and mop beside her

© The Gordon Parks Foundation

American Gothic, Washington, D.C., 1942

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Gelatin silver printexpand_more

Gift of Frederick B. Scheelexpand_more  2007.35.169

Not on Viewexpand_more

African American photographer Gordon Parks spent his youth in Minnesota and later became prominent in documentary journalism from the 1940s through 1970s, focusing on issues of civil rights and poverty. A year-long fellowship with the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration in 1942 supported his work documenting black lives in Washington, D.C. He later said of this photograph, a portrait of government cleaning woman Ella Watson: “I had experienced a kind of bigotry and discrimination here that I never expected to experience. . . . At first, I asked [Ella Watson] about her life, what it was like, and [it was] so disastrous that I felt that I must photograph this woman in a way that would make me feel or make the public feel about what Washington, D.C., was in 1942. So I put her before the American flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in another. And I said, ‘American Gothic’—that’s how I felt at the moment.”

Details
Title
American Gothic, Washington, D.C.
Artist Life
1912-2006
Role
Photographer
Accession Number
2007.35.169
Curator Approved

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black woman standing in front of American flag; broom and mop beside her

© The Gordon Parks Foundation

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