Gretchen Sorin’s book, Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights (Liveright, 2020) is Sorin’s ode to a part of history that has not been told to its fullest. Its pages include 75 powerful images that together, demonstrate that the car—the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility—has always held particular importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the dangers presented them by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. Melding new archival research with her family’s story, Sorin recovers a lost history and shows how, when combined with black travel guides, including the famous Green Book, the automobile encouraged a new way of resisting oppression.
Gretchen Sorin is the director and a distinguished professor of the State University of New York (SUNY) Oneonta Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies—one of the oldest museum studies programs in the United States and still “at the forefront of the profession today.” She holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in Museum Studies from SUNY Oneonta, and a Ph.D. in History from SUNY Albany and has for over thirty years curated innumerable exhibits for organizations like the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum, and the New York State Historical Association.
One can find Dr. Sorin’s book in print, digital, and audio formats. Its Steeplechase Films documentary, directed by Ric Burns, Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America, can be streamed online on PBS for free via a link on its documentary page: http://www.dwbfilm.com/.