The photograph was taken 2 years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling segregation is unconstitutional. Gordon Parks was an outstanding, prolific, African American, photographer who captured the dark side of American society in technically brilliant photos in an essay for Life Magazine called Segregation Story. This is a great photo for various reasons. It is beautiful, charming, and hateful. It captures the era of menacing malice, at times clearly marked – but often not, through which many black people navigated daily in the American south. Technically incredible. What should be a nice outing is marred by hate, spelled out in cheerful neon lights.
Mobile teacher Joanne Thornton Wilson and her niece, Shirley Kirksey, were photographed by Gordon Parks outside the Mobile Saenger Theatre in 1956. Parks was on assignment for Life magazine, which did not publish the photo at the time. (Courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation)
Personal note: I will share this image, and others, with my ESL class. They, as foreigners to the US and our history, are shocked and bewildered.