Dr. Gretchen Sorin is a Distinguished Service Professor of the State University of New York (SUNY) and director of SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies. She has curated exhibits with the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum, and the New York State Historical Association. Dr. Sorin’s 2020 book, Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights, earned her a place as a finalist for a 2021 NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work in Non-Fiction.
In Driving While Black, Dr. Sorin states, “Looking back often provides a way to move forward” (xviii). She believes Driving While Black is a contribution toward that end, hoping that “This book in some small way helps to shine a light on the origins of restricted mobility for Black Americans and their relationship with law enforcement and serves as a call to action that will help to end racial profiling” (“Gretchen Sorin '75”).
Driving While Black reveals to the reader that the automobile, a definitive mark of freedom and opportunity, possesses unique importance for African Americans. The car has always served as a means to allow Black families to escape the hazards ever-present in the engrained racist culture of America and to appreciate, to a certain degree, the autonomy of the open road. Sorin personalizes a misplaced history by merging original archival research with her own family’s story, revealing how the automobile, along with Black travel guides like the famous Green Book inspired a novel method of battling oppression (“Gretchen Sorin '75”).
Sorin collaborated with Emmy-winning director Ric Burns to bring her book to life in the form of a two-hour PBS documentary, Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America.
“Gretchen Sorin '75 Named Finalist for NAACP Image Award.” Gretchen Sorin '75 Named Finalist for NAACP Image Award | SUNY Oneonta, 1 Mar. 2021, suny.oneonta.edu/news-events/gretchen-sorin-75-named-finalist-naacp-image-award.
Sorin, Gretchen Sullivan. Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. 1st ed., Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.
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