Mobility is central to freedom and for African Americans mobility has been denied from the beginning of the United States. Driving While Black, a lecture by Gretchen Sullivan Sorin explores one of the most pressing racial issues of our time, examining space and how it is divided by race and what happens to black people when they travel on the road. This story, at once deeply troubling and inspiring for what it reveals about African American ingenuity and courage provides a way for us to understand American democracy, civil rights and personal freedom. The story also holds a special message for those of us engaged in the preservation of historic spaces.
Gretchen Sullivan Sorin is Director and Distinguished Professor of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, one of the nation’s oldest and most well-respected training programs for museum professionals. She has worked for more than 200 museums as an historian, exhibition curator, strategic and interpretive planner. She has served as curator for major exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in New York City, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Sorin is the author of Touring Historic Harlem: Four Walks in Northern Manhattan with Andrew Dolkart, In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and her recent book Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. Sorin’s documentary with Ric Burns, Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America premiered on PBS in 2020. Sorin holds a Ph.D. in History from the University at Albany.