November 30, 2020
The documentary film Driving While Black is streaming now on PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel.
From Emmy award-winning Ric Burns and Gretchen Sorin, the film explores the deep background of a recent phrase rooted in realities that have been an indelible part of the African-American experience for hundreds of years. Chronicling the riveting history and personal experiences of African-Americans on the road from the advent of the automobile through the seismic changes of the 1960s and beyond, Driving While Black examines the history of African-Americans on the road from the depths of the Depression to the height of the Civil Rights movement and beyond, exploring the deeply embedded dynamics of race, space and mobility in America.
Driving While Black utilizes archive 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. The film also delves deeply into the history of The Green Book, the travel guide authored by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green. From a first edition focused on the Northeast, Green expanded his guide to include much of the country, providing travel tips for African Americans driving, including safe and welcoming places to stop, dine and rest, as well as places to avoid, given the potential for racially motivated violence. “Vacation without aggravation,” the book advised African American families planning a road trip.