Author, scholar, and acclaimed historian Gretchen Sorin will discuss her fascinating new book, now the basis of a major PBS documentary by Ric Burns, Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road the Civil Rights with fellow historian William S. Walker. Sorin reveals how the car—the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility—has always held particular importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road.
It’s hardly a secret that mobility has always been limited, if not impossible, for African Americans. Yet it became more difficult to shackle someone who was cruising along a highway at 45 miles per hour. In Driving While Black, the acclaimed historian Gretchen Sorin recounts the creation of a parallel, unseen world of black motorists, who relied on travel guides, black only businesses, and informal communications networks to keep them safe. At the heart of Sorin’s story is Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book, a travel guide begun in 1936, which helped grant black Americans that most basic American rite, the family vacation. As Sorin demonstrates, black travel guides and black-only businesses encouraged a new way of resisting oppression. Interwoven with Sorin’s own family history and enhanced by dozens of little known images, Driving While Black charts how the automobile fundamentally reshaped African American life, and opens up an entirely new view onto one of the most important issues of our time.
Gretchen Sorin is distinguished professor and director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York. She has curated innumerable exhibits—including with the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum and the New York State Historical Association—and lives in upstate New York.
William S. Walker is associate professor of history at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta. He is an editor of The Inclusive Historian's Handbook (https://inclusivehistorian.
Northshire Live virtual events feature weekly author guests via Zoom, as well as a chance to connect with other readers and book lovers. To support Northshire Bookstore's event program, Northshire Live events are ticketed on a pay-what-you-can basis. Free for those who purchase an event book from Northshire or for those with financial hardship, tickets and registration are only available via Eventbrite.