“Driving while black: race, space and mobility in America” is a two-hour documentary film by historian Dr. Gretchen Sorin and Emmy–winning director Ric Burns that will air on PBS this Tuesday.
Recounting the history and personal experiences—at once liberating and challenging—of black people on the road from the advent of the automobile through the seismic changes of the sixties and beyond “Driving while Black” goes deep through telling the stories of the men, women and children who lived through it.
Drawing on a wealth of recent scholarship and based on, and inspired in large part, by Gretchen Sorin’s recently published study of the way the automobile and highways transformed African American life across the twentieth century, “Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights” (W.W. Norton, 2020) the film starts in the depths of the Depression to the height of the Civil Rights movement, exploring along the way the deeply entrenched dynamics of race, space and mobility in America during one of the most turbulent and transformative periods in American history.
“Driving while black” uses a rich archive of material from the period, including footage, photographs, advertisements, road signs, maps, letters and legal records, and weaves together oral histories and the on-camera insights of scholars, writers, musicians and ordinary American travelers.
In a nation rocked by the many crises launched, directly or indirectly, by an infernal psychopath, the living ain’t easy for black people. White supremacists are eager to show their face at every turn and policemen do not appear willing to mend their ways anytime soon. Documentaries such as these help to illuminate the somber history of black on white race relations and will inspire more people, hopefully, to acknowledge the consequences of racism on society.