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For most of the early 20th century, Jim Crow laws denied black Americans the right to travel freely on buses and trains, in a defacto extension of the physical constraints of slavery. In her new book Driving While Black, historian Gretchen Sorin shows how the rise of the automobile provided a kind of self-determination, even liberation, to African American life. Sorin travels deep into a parallel, largely undocumented world of black-only businesses, informal communications networks, and travel guides with life and death stakes (such as Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book) that allowed African Americans to stay safe on the road, even as they encouraged a new and joyous way of resisting oppression.
Before Sorin’s conversation, join us starting at 7PM in the Great Hall for an excerpt from the feature-length documentary Driving While Black, which draws on over a decade of Sorin’s research to explore travel literature aimed at facilitating black automobile travel during Jim Crow.
Gretchen Sorin is distinguished professor and director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies of the State University of New York Oneonta. She has curated exhibitions for the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum and the New York State Historical Association.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.