As a photojournalist for Life magazine, Gordon Parks was assigned to report on a resurgent African American political and religious movement known as Nation of Islam. As Parks suggests in his recollections about the experience, the group was associated with advocating for militant strategies for achieving the empowerment of Black Americans.
“In 1963 the turbulent black revolution was steadily building and Life magazine wanted to cover it. The Muslims and Malcolm X, their fiery spokesman, had become the magazine’s first target…It seems reasonable that at the time, Life’s editors would question my ability to report objectively about black militancy. I was black and my sentiments lay in the heart of black fury sweeping the country.
Certainly the black militants would have their doubts about me as well. I was a black member of a white team. But they wanted to be heard and I was in a position to accommodate them through the pages of a prestigious magazine…
I came to like and respect Malcolm and address him as ‘brother.’ He seemed to like me, but from him it was always ‘Mr. Parks.’ I was beside him on the night the Los Angeles police entered the Muslims’ mosque, shot it up, and killed a member. I remained close by him when the Muslims were put on trial later on. We were aboard a late flight to New York. ‘Brother,’ he said, ‘my daughter Qubilah needs a godfather and I nominate you. How about it?’
Shocked, I answered, ‘I’d be honored.’”
—Gordon Parks in Gordon Parks: Half Past Autumn, 1997.