March 7, 2006

Black American Filmmaker Gordon Parks Dies

LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Parks, the former magazine photographer who became a leading black American filmmaker with movies such as "Shaft," died on Tuesday in New York City, his nephew Charles Parks said.

Parks, 93, had been in failing health, said the nephew, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Parks, born in Fort Scott, Kansas, took up photography during the Great Depression in the late 1930s and became Life magazine's first black staff photographer in 1948. He stayed until 1968.

He turned to filmmaking in the late 1960s, and in 1971 directed the hit movie "Shaft," which was one of the first of a wave of movies known as "blaxploitation" films that spoke directly to disenfranchised black Americans.

Parks' first movie, 1969's "The Learning Tree," was adapted from a novel he wrote about growing up poor and black in 1920s Kansas.