Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights
With Sabrina Jacobs
Driving While Black explains clearly how the automobile fundamentally changed
African American Life. This is the dramatic history behind the best picture-winning film.
“Gretchen Sorin has spent decades exploring this deeply researched, acutely felt, penetrating study of race, space, and mobility in America—and a lifetime thinking about the issues and experiences that underlie it. No one who reads Driving While Black can fail to be moved and wonder-struck by how far American society has come in the last century and a half in forwarding the dream of equal mobility for all, and by how far we still have to go.” —Ric Burns, documentary filmmaker and writer
The ultimate symbol of independence and possibility, the automobile has always held distinct importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the many dangers presented by our entrenched racist society, and to enjoy – in some measure – the freedom of the open road. Gretchen Sorin recovers the forgotten history of black
motorists and recounts their creation of a parallel, unseen world of travel guides, black-only hotels, and informal communication networks that kept black drivers safe. At the heart of
this story is Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book, which made possible that most
basic American right—the family vacation—and encouraged a new method of resisting
oppression. Enlivened by Sorin’s personal history, Driving While Black opens a fresh,
entirely new view of the African American experience, and shows why travel was central
to the civil rights’ movement.
Gretchen Sorin is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Cooperstown Graduate
Program of the State University of New York.
Sabrina Jacobs is host and producer of the popular A Rude Awakening, aired on KPFA Radio
Monday afternoons. She covers local breaking news and global events, providing views from a
progressive vantage point. Ms. Jacobs is also currently serving as staff representative/vice
chair of Pacifica Radio’s National Board.