Watson, Ella ,
- Eunice Angelica Whitmal
daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and devoted Christian, was the primary subject of the famed African American photographer Gordon Parks Sr. In Parks's famous photograph American Gothic, a scathing reinterpretation of Grant Woods's classic painting of that name, Ella Watson, holding a mop and broom, stands in front of an American flag hanging on a wall in a government office. The photograph is a searing representation of the discrimination and segregation that many African Americans encountered regardless of their gender or class position.Behind Watson's famous image was a woman with a challenging, albeit obscure, life story. Parks recalled several details Watson shared with him during an informal interview:
She began to spill out her life s story It was a pitiful one She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob She had gone through high school married ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.