Back to All Events

Friday Forum: Driving While Black

  • Fenimore Art Museum 5798 State Highway 80 Cooperstown, NY, 13326 United States (map)
Driving While Black photo by Emily Pfeil, Co-Producer at Steeplechase Films (2).jpg

Post-screening discussion

with filmmaker Ric Burns and senior historical advisor Gretchen Sorin

An in-progress documentary by filmmaker Ric Burns, Driving While Black explores the role of the automobile in the lives of African Americans in the early twentieth century while chronicling a crucial and transformative period in American cultural and social history. Based on more than 15 years of research by acclaimed African American historian Dr. Gretchen Sorin, the film explores an entire genre of travel literature aimed at helping black travelers navigate through Jim Crow America. Driving While Black draws on a rich archive of material from the period—along with riveting oral histories and the on-camera insights of scholars, writers, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and ordinary vacationers. The film will be structured by the emergence, burgeoning, and eventual obsolescence of these travel guides aimed at facilitating automobile journeys—especially the legendary Negro Motorist Green Book. At the heart of this unique travel literature, and the social issues that made it necessary, lies a powerfully revealing narrative of mobility and race in America –  one still deeply relevant and resonant today. Ric Burns and Gretchen Sorin will show clips from the film and lead an interactive discussion on the process of making Driving While Black as well as the issues it examines.