Traveling While Black: The Green Book Guides to African-American Motoring

20th-century automobile travel was supposed to represent freedom, but what else did it represent? Professor Cotten Seiler from Dickinson College joins us to discuss the difficulties and hazards of traveling in the United States faced by African-American motorists in the 20th Century, especially during the height of segregation and Jim Crow. Specifically, we learn how important guides like the Negro Motorist Green Book and the popular Travelguide: Vacation and Recreation Without Humiliation were to the reality of “traveling while black.” Encore Episode.

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Gretchen Sorin, Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights

Bloomberg • Best Nonfiction Books of 2020: “[A] tour de force.”

The basis of a major PBS documentary by Ric Burns, this “excellent history” (The New Yorker) reveals how the automobile fundamentally changed African American life.

Driving While Black demonstrates that the car―the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility―has always held particular importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. Melding new archival research with her family’s story, Gretchen Sorin recovers a lost history, demonstrating how, when combined with black travel guides―including the famous Green Book―the automobile encouraged a new way of resisting oppression. 74 black-and-white illustrations

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