Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize


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 at Harvard offers three $5,000 grants to Harvard undergraduate, graduate students and alumni 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 Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize is part of the foundation’s year-round educational and grant-making initiatives to support students. 


Undergraduate, graduate student and alumni essays are eligible for consideration. The award is not restricted to students from any specific concentration or department. For the 2019-20 academic year, a total of three prizes will be awarded from all eligible submissions.

Essay length

The essay word limit is 7,500 words including footnotes and references, and may include images with captions. Essays must have been written within the last two academic years for any course at Harvard University (within the academic years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020). 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 submitted for consideration by the committee, 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.


The three selected recipients 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 and African and African American Studies.


Essays should be submitted to CARAT by Monday, March 2, 2020, 12 noon. Announcement of the award recipients will occur by mid-March. NOTE: CARAT link will go live at 5pm February 10, 2020.

Questions pertaining to the Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize at Harvard 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.