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Wed Oct 14, 2020, 10:12 AM

From the "Green Book" to Buicks, PBS' "Driving While Black" examines the history of Black mobility

From the "Green Book" to Buicks, PBS' "Driving While Black" examines the history of Black mobility
Historian Gretchen Sorin spoke to Salon about how cars and highways offered freedom but also brought new dangers

OCTOBER 13, 2020 9:23PM

(Salon) Black mobility has always come with its limitations in this country. A vision of a better life met with fear entrenched the journey. The automobile for many African Americans was a utility of safety, freedom, and opportunity. Shackling someone cruising along the highway is difficult. Historian Dr. Gretchen Sorin has done extensive fieldwork on the subject, culminating in her book "Driving While Black," which was published earlier this year. The book provides the basis for the two-hour PBS documentary of the same name, directed by Sorin and Emmy-winning filmmaker Ric Burns.

The documentary examines "The Negro Motorist Green Book," a small directory of Black-only businesses, restaurants, staying accommodations, and gas stations that were safe for African Americans to use while traveling. The book was published by New York mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936-1966. Its chief goal was to no longer need printing.

The film traces the fight for Black mobility from the Black codes, meant to control Black people's freedom of movement after the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, which depended on the automobile. Today, systemic racism still haunts Americans while doing just about anything while Black: shopping, eating, sleeping, and working. Most recently, Black travel guides have caught on as a topic of popular interest through films and TV shows like the HBO series "Lovecraft Country" and the Oscar-winning, yet controversial film "Green Book." Now we get to parse through its history.


The establishment of the highway then provides a coating of safety for people. Can you tell me about that evolution?

You didn't have to go through little communities that you didn't know anything about. You could just stay on the highway and hopefully if you needed gas or needed to use the restroom you could just stop off at a gas station.

I think the most frightening story is the one about the little boy who is traveling to a funeral with his aunt and uncle, and they make the wrong turn. They are driving down the wrong street in Waco, Texas and as they are traveling they see a mob setting a Black man on fire. Someone sees them in the car and yells out, "There is some more. Let's get them," so they took off after them. The highways eliminate that possibility while driving through these little towns. ...........(more)


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Reply From the "Green Book" to Buicks, PBS' "Driving While Black" examines the history of Black mobility (Original post)
marmar Oct 14 OP
ItsjustMe Oct 14 #1

Response to marmar (Original post)

Wed Oct 14, 2020, 02:49 PM

1. Green Book

Movie was a great film.


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