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Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights

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Bloomberg • Best Nonfiction Books of 2020: "[A] tour de force."

The basis of a major PBS documentary by Ric Burns, this “excellent history” (The New Yorker) reveals how the automobile fundamentally changed African American life.

Driving While Black demonstrates 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 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, Gretchen Sorin recovers a lost history, demonstrating how, when combined with black travel guides—including the famous Green Book—the automobile encouraged a new way of resisting oppression.

ISBN-13: 9781631498695

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation

Publication Date: 12-29-2020

Pages: 352

Product Dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 The Journey 1

Chapter 2 "Humiliation Stalks Them" 18

Chapter 3 African Americans and the Automobile 34

Chapter 4 "Through the Windshield" 77

Chapter 5 Driving While Black 119

Chapter 6 Travel Guides for Everyone 150

Chapter 7 Victor and Alma Green's the Negro Motorist Green Book 176

Chapter 8 "Where Will You Stay Tonight?" 215

Chapter 9 "Vacation Without Aggravation" 250

Epilogue 265

Appendix 273

Acknowledgments 283

Notes 287

Index 319