‘Driving Whereas Black’: The PBS documentary tells a posh historical past
The two-hour video, first on October 13 on PBS, is flying from captivity to Jim Crow to the arrival of a central street. Through classics and a series of interviews, filmmakers’ discussions are interesting. As black Americans gained their freedom of movement, white Americans pushed back for fear of where they were going and why – and the remnants of apartheid still exist today.
“There are also many dangers to living on the road,” says Allyson Hobbs, an associate professor at Stanford University, in the film. “I think we’re at a time when African Americans are just as scared as their grandparents felt in the 1930s and 40s.”
The video talks about enduring racism along the way. It incorporates stories of torture from well-known Americans such as Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall with videos of people being stopped, swept away, and tortured. At the same time, the film is a celebration of how African Americans gained their freedom of movement.
Curator and historian Gretchen Sorin spent 20 years researching black people and writing The film’s film is based on. After his interview, he asks his recruits to provide them with pictures and videos of the house. He earned a lot of money that helped attract the award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns, Ken Burns’ brother, to work with him on a written project.
Notes in this movie migration after the Civil War and then exploding with glittering images of black Americans beginning to move in style.
“The car is the best because it frees Africans from Jim Crow’s bus and Jim Crow’s train,” Sorin told CNN. “But at the same time, there are dangers along the way.”
A very open road
The filmmakers claim that finding cars frees black people from the shame they often experience at bus and train stations. As black families walk along these special highways they can pass through electoral towns. Owning a car means that black families can go to the countryside and be proud of the Buicks and Chevrolets in their driveway.
The presence of a car, a very high road and walking on the road were amazing events in the US. But video historians, such as MIT history professor Craig Steven Wilder, want everyone to remember that progress has not been kind to everyone.
“Americans love to celebrate their history, but they don’t like to watch it,” Wilder says in the film.
In Jim Crow’s time, Black people walked but were not prepared to stand on the road. There was no place to rest for bathing oil or hungry food at the local restaurant. Sandwiches with fried chicken were carried cold in the trunk. If the restaurant served “black people” at all, they were outside the side windows or back doors.
The racism that plagued the country, in the end, paved the way for black business.
Travel trips black and white
Black women soon began renting rooms in their homes and providing food for black travelers throughout the process as they provided information on where to pray, fix their hair or stand up.
In the film, Valerie Cunningham recalled how her aunt Hazel ran a Rock Rest guest house in Kittery, Maine.
“He served his guests above all else,” Cunningham said. “Sunday was Crab Day, so it would be Lobster Thermidor. Because it was all home-made.”
Secure shopping malls became more and more popular, especially east of the Mississippi, and began to include jazz parties and luxury hotels. The Marsalis Mansion Motel in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans, and the Rossonian in Five Points, Denver, were among the many black-owned businesses.
A number of small travel agencies mentioned the safety zone, but none did as good or sufficient as New York post operator Victor H. Green’s “Negro Motorist Greenbook.” Green acquired an English publisher to print his first materials, sold copies at a black Esso oil refinery and continued to print from 1936 to 1967.
Sorin told CNN that Green’s remarks echoed Mark Twain’s words, “Walking is the antidote to racism.”
He also said Green believes that if white Americans see black people walking, they will get the same thing.
“I don’t know that’s what happened,” Sorin said. “But really, the encounter between black Americans and other white Americans has made a difference. And that’s what happens when people move around.”
Progress was not the same
Discrimination ends, many businesses controlled by black customers closed. While blacks had the opportunity to sell Western businesses, so few White Americans did the same for blacks, according to the film.
Researchers have found that only 3% of the annual list in Green’s book is still valid. The Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans is one of the survivors and owner Leah Chase spoke to her co-creators before she died in 2019.
Some of the material in the book is by historian and illustrator Candacy Taylor. Taylor traveled hundreds of thousands of miles searching for “Green Book” lists in his illustrated history, “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America.”
“The ‘Green Book’ does some of the things we need,” says Wilder, a historian. “It reminds us of a world black people have created under apartheid.”
The video is fully loaded and low. Highways that allow people to cross the globe were constructed to create black areas in their path. The car has been cheap, but that is often the way black people meet the police, Sorin tells CNN.
Pictures of black families in their shiny new cars paint a grim picture of black drivers being harassed, beaten and tainted. Sorin says his production team saw that everything needed to be integrated.
“It’s not wrong to love your country talking about American warts and everything. I think it’s patriotic. That’s the way we live. That’s the only way we can be good.”