From its debut in 1936 up until the mid-1960s, Life was America's premier source for photojournalism. Founder Henry R. Luce promoted the magazine as a platform for social commentary and public persuasion. During its heyday in the 1940s and '50s, it had a readership of more than twenty million in the United States and Europe.
Despite the scope of its circulation, or perhaps because of it, the magazine often took a more conservative approach to the issue of segregation. Parks's photo essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden was published in Life on September 24, 1956. The piece was noteworthy in its forward critique of the limitations imposed on African Americans. The images present scenes of Sunday church services, family gatherings, farm work, domestic duties, children's play, window-shopping, and at-home haircuts all in the context of the restraints of the Jim Crow South.