A new film examines the history of African Americans driving on the road from the Great Depression to the height of the Civil Rights movement.
“Driving While Black,” airing this week on most PBS stations in the U.S., show how the automobile liberated African Americans to move around the country while still navigating segregation and violence.
The film was inspired by Gretchen Sorin’s 2019 book, “Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights.” The book was a riveting story on how the automobile opened up opportunities for blacks in the U.S.
The car allowed African Americans to avoid segregated trains and buses throughout the American South and gave blacks a chance to travel across the country. Travel guides presented a modern-day Underground Railroad to show black travelers which hotels and restaurants would serve them.
The free movement opened the window to migration across the land and away from Jim Crow, bring in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
The project is one of many recent works examining travel by people of color despite discrimination and threats of racial violence. Candacy Taylor’s “Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America,” released last year, looks at how the Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans, helped black travelers navigate segregation and create a traveling network.