The dangers of travel are not new to African Americans. In slavery and freedom, movement is a threat. Motor vehicle ownership provided some level of safety and reduced exposure to racism, but with limitations. “Driving While Black” offers the history of mobility and the network of resources available to African American travelers. It explains the famous Green Paper, but goes well beyond this guide.
As a historian, professor and curator of the museum exhibition, Dr. Gretchen Sorin the Value of Oral History. The severity of racism is riddled with memories of vacations and family gatherings, their own and those of others.
The book documents mobility through the civil rights movement, but the story continues. “I want people to say, ‘I have to get involved. I have to do something. I have to answer, ”said Sorin in this interview. On the final pages of Driving While Black, activists and police officers strain law enforcement-community relations.
Highlights of the interview
To incremental improvements
The only thing that gives me hope is when you think about how the majority controlled this country but how the minority said, “Oh, no. Sorry, but we need rights. African Americans need rights. Women need rights. LGBT people need rights. Native Americans need rights. Asian-American people should not be interrogated in detention centers. “All the things we did wrong made us do a little better. Just a bit.
About the role of the early police departments
I found it really important to explain how police departments are formed. In many cities the police were used as slave catchers. They were the citizens who gathered every night – and they were given badges that looked exactly like the badges sheriffs have now – and they roamed the community looking for escaped, fugitive slaves and really intimidating them. The idea was that you intimidate people in order to keep them from running away. This is a workforce for the country, and when the workforce leaves, who will do the job? So the communities had to enforce slavery, and that laid the foundation for many early police departments that say a lot about how the police force thinks of African Americans – that they need to be controlled, that mobility needs to be limited.
About the potential for collaboration
When I see whites bond with blacks, these were the times when things got done. When you think of the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, then blacks and whites have come together to solve the problems together. Then something good happens.