Gordon Parks, Emerging Man, Harlem, New York, 1952 courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks, Emerging Man, Harlem, New York, 1952 courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation


The Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize offers three $5,000 grants to Harvard undergraduate and graduate students per academic year for essays that explore the relationship between visual art and justice as it pertains to racial equity. The prize, which honors the legacy of photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks, serves to acknowledge the importance of visual literacy and the nexus of race and citizenship, particularly in the United States. The inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize is part of the foundation’s year-round educational and grant-making initiatives to support students. 

This year, the Prize will be awarded on April 25-26th, 2019 at the Vision & Justice convening. This will also be timed to coincide with the opening of a Cooper Gallery exhibition of works by Gordon Parks in the collection of Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz. The Deans have acquired more than 80 photographs by Gordon Parks, the largest private collection of works by the artist. The winners will also be honored at the annual Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner in New York City on June 4, 2019.


Both undergraduate and graduate student essays are eligible for consideration. The award is not restricted to students from any specific concentration or department. For the 2018-19 academic year, awards will go to two undergraduate students and one graduate student.

Essays must have been written within the last three academic years for any course at Harvard University (i.e within the academic years 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019). Students may also submit a chapter of a thesis. Alternatively, current students may submit essays written expressly for the purpose of applying for the award and not related to academic classwork. Essays previously published or under contract for publication are ineligible.

The essays can but need not focus on photography and films by Gordon Parks so long as the thesis addresses the convergence of visual art, justice, race, and citizenship.

Essay length:

The essay word limit is 7,500 words including footnotes and references, and may include images with captions.

Award size:

The three selected students will receive a prize of $5,000 each.

Prize Jury:

The jury is comprised of faculty from the following departments: History of Art and Architecture, African and African American Studies, and Visual and Environmental Studies. 


Essays should be submitted to CARAT by Monday, March 25th, 2019. Announcement of the award recipients will occur at the end of April.  

Questions pertaining to the Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize may be directed to:

Feven Girmay, Undergraduate Studies and ALP Program Coordinator

Office: Barker Center, 2nd Floor, 231A

Email: fevengirmay@fas.harvard.edu     

Phone: (617) 496-8545

Specific questions will be forwarded to the Parks Prize committee chair.