Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America (2020) Movie Script

- what it means to be American,
is to take to the road.
- Mobility is essential freedom.
- Discovery, freedom.
- That notion of driving
while black reminds us
that that's not available
to all Americans.
- To be able to move freely,
we live in a country
where it's never been
everybody's right.
- There are still so many
- Officer, I'm locking my car.
- We have to engage history
with a kind of brutal honesty.
- - "Good roadsle
beckon to you and me,
daily we grow more motor-wise.
The nomad in the poorest
and the mightiest of us,
sends us behind the wheel -
north, south, east, and west -
in answer to the call of the
It's mighty good to be
the skipper of a change,
and pilot our craft
whither and when we will.
We feel like Vikings.
What if our craft is blunt of
and limited of power, and
our sea is macadamized;
it's food for the spirit
to just give the old
railroad Jim Crow the laugh.
Nevertheless, there is still a
small cloud
that stands between us and
complete motor-travel freedom.
On the trail, this cloud rarely
troubles us in the mornings,
but as the afternoon wears on
it casts a shadow of
apprehension to our hearts.
'Where, ' it asks us,
'will you stay tonight?'
An innocent enough question;
to our Nordic friends, of no
But to you and me,
what a peace-destroying
world of potentiality."
Alfred Edgar Smith 1933.
- Mobility is essential to
I think the automobile is
of the importance and the value
of mobility in a free society.
But, it also goes beyond
and it allows us to understand
the way that African Americans
have moved forward in this
and the way that AfricanAmericans
have been pushed back.
- Could I uh
see some ID please, sir?
- For what?
- I need to
see your driver's license
and registration.
- For what?
- Let me start out by saying:
driving while Black was always
Yet, by the same token,
millions of African Americans
did it.
- I think the idea of driving
while Black
is a really helpful way to
that this form of mobility
that Americans have revered,
and have enjoyed, and have
romanticized, you know,
it's sort of part of, kind
of, American iconography,
and what it means
to be American,
is to take to the road,
to have this great
expanse of the highway,
and to make memories
with your family.
And I think that the notion
of driving while Black
reminds us that that's not
available to all Americans.
- For me, the term Driving While
isn't just a slogan,
it's not just part of
our political rhetoric,
it's not just something
we say to remind ourselves
of the persistence of
racism in the United States.
It's a very personal experience
of remembering, in fact,
the anxiety, the fear.
- I think it's really, really
for the majority of Americans
to begin to even understand
the gut wrenching horror
that is driving in a racist
- Well you know Driving While
is a very interesting concept
and it entails so much more
than the actual driving while
It's living while Black.
Sleeping while Black.
Eating while Black. Moving while
And so when we start talking
about the brutal restrictions
on black movement in this
well that's a long history.
That goes all the way back to
day one.
You have to get to the root of
You know, where's the root of
- I think for African Americans,
any story about mobility
really begins 400 years ago.
- I think it's really important
to look at the longer history
of race, space, and mobility,
because if we look to the past,
we can really see how travel or
for African Americans has
really been circumscribed.
So if we think about, you
know, the first Africans
who came to the colonies
through the Middle Passage
and on slave ships,
think about the trauma and
the terror and the violence
of that form of forced mobility.
- If you just go back to those
roots -
back to the era of slavery -
a chance to move around
was very much regulated and
by those who were slave owners
over people who were enslaved.
- I think the extraction
of black people's labor,
the use of black people's
their capacity to produce
and to generate wealth
required, in fact, restrictions
upon their ability to move.
And so much of American history,
so much of American law,
is actually focused on
policing that movement,
policing that mobility.
- Many enslaved Africans,
never left a one-mile area
in their entire life,
because they were constrained
to that plantation or that farm.
- We were slaves.
We belonged to people.
Now I couldn't go from
here across the street
without I have a note, or
something from my master.
And if I had that pass, I
could go wherever he sent me.
- The fact that you had to get a
to go from one plantation to
And if you didn't have that pass
you were likely to be
stopped by slave patrols
and they were given permission
to beat you
and to mistreat you,
for having the audacity
to think that you could
travel on your own.
- So we can talk about
very, very early on,
you know, the imposition.
You know, the limitations
that's imposed on Black life.
"You're not allowed to
go beyond this point."
So right away you have some
elements of racial profiling
from the very beginning of the
Black experience in America.
- One of the things that
I think is so interesting
is how policing developed in the
Policing starts with slave
These are men who are
part of the community
who go around at night to
make sure that enslaved people
are not leaving their
but they're also there to
terrorize and to intimidate.
- The slave patrols of the old
are there to control
Black people's movements,
to keep slaves from
moving off plantations,
to limit their ability
to seek and find freedom
by crossing boundaries and
that they're not intended to
And it's not a regional problem.
In the Northern states, in
places like New York City,
there were regulations
on black people moving
about in the nighttime.
And colonial New York, and 18th
19th century New York went
to, in fact, great lengths
to police the movement of black
- "I am unable to travel
in any part of this country
without calling forth
of the dark spirit of
slavery at every step."
Frederick Douglass, 1852.
- Many enslaved Africans,
like Frederick Douglass,
stole themselves from slavery,
and from there,
walked to a free state.
The Underground Railroad
was a very loose network
of African Americans
and white Americans
who helped fugitive slaves
escape, where they could
disappear into a Black
or perhaps working their way to
- The repercussions for the
lack of success are terrible.
Deciding to run away could
mean you might be beaten,
you might be sent further
South, separated from family.
All for the belief that
freedom of movement -
a chance to get to a better
place - is worth the risk;
is worth all the issues
that come with that.
- The Fugitive Slave
Act was passed in 1850.
And it criminalized those people
who were supporting African
on the Underground Railroad,
because the law of the land
was that a slave had to be
returned to their master.
- Now you see, that,
that was in slavery time.
I recollect just as
well, and he'd bring back
whole lot the colored people.
And they brought them hound
in and brought three niggas
with them hound, runaway niggas,
you know, caught in the wood.
And they, right, right across,
right at the creek there,
they take them niggas and put
them on,
and put them on a log lay
them down and fasten them.
And whup them.
You hear them niggas hollering
and praying on them logs.
And there was a nigga bring them
Then they take them out down
there and put them in jail.
- The Fugitive Slave Act
was designed as an act
that would appease the southern
and keep them from leaving the
But instead of appeasing
the southern states,
it really demonstrated to
many people in the North,
how they were complicit in
They watched, as African
were dragged from homes,
were put into jails,
they were being taken back into
They saw the suffering of these
The Fugitive Slave Act really
lit the fuse
that brought about the Civil
In 1861, the Union falls apart
and 11 southern States
secede from the Union
and become part of the
Confederate States of America.
And immediately many
enslaved African Americans
seize the opportunity to
escape their plantations.
And the Union army had to
what are we going to do
with all of these people?
And so they give them
work behind Union lines
and it's really the
beginning of Emancipation.
And that shows how important
mobility really was
for these people.
Finally in 1863, President
issues the Emancipation
We think that immediately
everyone was free.
And that wasn't the case.
- When we found
out that we were free,
we didn't have nowhere to go.
We didn't have no property.
We didn't have no home.
Like cattle we were just turned
Well, we been slaves all our
My mother was a slave,
my sisters was slaves,
father was a slave.
Well after freedom, you know,
colored people didn't have
- Well, I think in the
post-Civil War period
you do have a great excitement
about having the shackles
of slavery released,
and the fact that people can
make choices
that aren't dependent upon
the okay of the slave owner.
And one of the things we found
is that there's a lot of
among African Americans
during this period:
searches for family members who
were lost,
that you're trying to reconnect
a decision just to leave the
on which you lived for so many
and to have the choice to
do what you want to do,
and to move where you want to
And that happens I think
for a period of time.
- The Civil War comes
and after the Civil War,
everything is disrupted,
no one knows exactly
what's going to happen
in this era historians
call Reconstruction,
in which there's an effort
to remake the South.
- Reconstruction is really an
for the rebirth of the
And it was an extremely
hopefully time;
the 13th, 14th and 15th
to the Constitution are passed.
First abolishing slavery,
giving African Americans
birthright citizenship,
and then the right to vote.
For a very brief time,
African-Americans had the
opportunity during
reconstruction to be a part of
the government.
There were about 2,000 men who
were in government positions,
local state, and federal.
There were even two
African American senators.
- "It was the Golden Dawn,
after chains of a thousand
For the first time in their
life, they could travel;
they could see;
they could change the
dead level of their labor;
they could talk to
friends and sit at sundown
and in moonlight, listening
and imparting wonder-tales.
They could hunt in the swamps,
and fish in the rivers.
And above all, they couldstand
up and assert themselves.
They need not fear the patrol;
they need not even cringe
before a white face
and touch their hats."
W.E.B. DuBois.
- The Civil War doesn't
freedom for Africann Americans
in a fell swoop overnight.
Whites are contesting
every degree of freedom
that African Americans are
in the aftermath
ofEmancipation and the Civil War.
- One of the things that always
strikes me
about the post-Civil War moment
is the extraordinary conflict
between the desire of African
for full three-dimensional
freedom and citizenship,
and the extraordinary
backlash that happens
as white Americans attempt
to police their movement,
return them to the conditions
in which they had previously
- There was continuous pushback
against African American
freedom but it got much worse.
Whites in the South were very
that they were not going
to permit Black people
to have an equal stake in the
And they reasserted their white
And by 1877, Reconstruction was
Many of the positive changesthat
were made are rolled back.
And they, re-institute
adifferent kind of slavery.
- One of the fundamental
unresolved problems
of the Civil War is the
problem of the centrality
of Black people's labor
to the American economy.
If the resumption of the cotton
is, in fact, critical
to the reestablishment
of the United States then
in fact Black people's labor
is going to play a central role
in redefining what the
United States will look like.
- Cotton and tobacco
are still the major crops
in the South, and they
have to be harvested
and they have to be planted and
and African Americans
are still doing that work
for very, very low wages, which
is the sharecropping system.
- It was often a cycle of
where freed Blacks had to go
through planters and merchants
to get access to the tools
that they needed to plow,
to plant seeds, to harvest.
Folks got trapped in kind of
an unending cycle of debt,
that really rooted them in
and allowed white planters
to continue to exploit their
- And very quickly that sense of
that chance to make your own
begins to be constricted and
- And land isn't just about
It's about political and
economic power.
The power to choose to be
able to move freely in space.
So when I think about mobility
I know we live in a country
where it's not been everybody's
or it's never been everybody's
- It was important to owners
to keep these people on the
- And they had all sorts
of means of doing that,
from crop liens, to the policing
of roads.
An African-descended
American walking along a road
could be stopped, investigated,
asked why he or she was
going where they were going.
One common place for this
confrontation over freedom
would be around transit systems
and train stations in
Train stations were policed
An African American
going to a train station,
buying a ticket, would be viewed
with a great deal of
suspicion by the authorities.
- After Reconstruction, many
states pass vagrant laws.
- You had to
follow all these rules.
And if you failed to obey the
you could be imprisoned or face
certain degrees of violence.
- You can think about the
rise of the Ku Klux Klan
and the extraordinary racial
of the post-Civil War south.
That whole regime of racial
restriction and racial law,
is intended actually
to reverse the progress
of the Civil War in the early
years of reconstruction.
- After the Civil War, slave
patrols become vigilantes.
And they become groups
like the Ku Klux Klan
that are still going around
to black communities,
and that are still looking
for African Americans
who are out and who they can
but now, they're extra-legal
and they're using terror.
- Well I think the most
powerful instrument
to restrict the mobility
of African Americans
in the aftermath of the Civil
was Jim Crow segregation.
Designating white space from
black space
to prevent the interaction
of white and black
and to restrict the mobility
of African Americans.
- Jim Crow, first of all, is a
Because Jim Crow was a character
in the earliest minstrel shows,
always played by a white man in
So Jim Crow was the
nickname that people gave
to all of these laws,
and all of these customs,
that governed how people
Both publicly and privately.
Jim Crow wasn't completely
But what it did say was that
in all kinds of environments,
that white people were in one
and everybody else was in a
lower group.
- The way the Jim Crows worked
was that it was, in fact,
a way of creating separation
between the races,
and to remind individuals
that you are not of the same
equality, of the same ilk,
as others in that circumstance.
- Jim Crow serves another
which is it takes away the
dignity of African Americans.
And it takes away the trappings
of respect
and of human dignity from people
when they're in public places,
when they're traveling.
- African
Americans were really met
with tremendous resistance
about where they would sit on
They had to sit in what was
known as the Jim Crow car.
- So, for example, in trains
what you have would be a
Black car, or a colored car,
where you would have to,
as that person of color,
sit in that car, as opposed
to other places in the train.
- We had to ride in the
first car behind the engine.
That was smoky.
And the fumes and things
were really in that one.
- Either you
traveled with the windows
pulled down tightly, or, if you
opened it,
the whole car was filled with
- African Americans, regardless
of their class status,
regardless of their educational
had to sit in the smoking car.
Even when they had purchased
a first class ticket.
- If you're a Black traveler,
you don't just buy your ticket
and get on a train and enjoyit
and go where you want to go.
Or get on a bus and go
where you want to go.
It is fraught at every
turn: Will you be safe?
Will you be harassed?
And people just get tired of it.
- W. E. B. Du Bois talked
about the wages of whiteness.
And by that he meant that
white identity, historically,
in the United States, was
constructed in such a way
to claim or to monopolize
access to certain resources
and opportunities and
spaces in American history.
And By creating that hierarchy
and by creating policies
of exclusion and segregation,
it did affect a kind of
psychic wage
to be white and to know that
you did enjoy certain freedoms
and certain access that other
groups of people did not.
- White supremacy defines
a level of white privilege,
that, on some level,
is pretty low.
I mean, just think:
You're a poor person.
You can drink from the
white water fountain,
but I have to drink, a
black person has to drink
from the colored water fountain.
That doesn't really seem
like a tremendous privilege,
does it?
But it is a small
difference in ordinary life
I'm White.
I might be poor,
I might not own any land.
I, too, might be a
sharecropper, but I'm white.
And these other people are not
And that is the line.
- Segregation was incredibly
It wasn't just about not being
to use certain public
but it was also about deference.
"You are not worthy.
You are less than other people.
You are inferior."
It had a powerful effect on
and children psychologically.
- The story of Jim Crow is a
story of everyday violence,
and the threat of violence,
which can be just as potent
as the acts of violence,
The sense of bodily insecurity
that you, as an African
American, have
in large parts of the American
That you might be at threat
because of what you look
like at any given moment.
- "A white man came
up beside me in plain clothes
with a great big pistol on his
And he said, 'Nigger boy,
what are you doing here?'
And I said, 'Well I'm waiting
for the train to Shreveport.'
And he said, 'There's only one
more train
comes through here,
and that's at four o'clock,
and you'd better be on it,
because the sun is never going
on a live nigger in this town.'"
Thurgood Marshall, 1938.
- They used to treat
colored people terribly bad
in Mississippi and Alabama.
You know, they used
topractically lynch colored people
you might well say for
looking at a white woman.
You know, they didn't seem to
have too much of a chance. No.
- I heard my mother state this.
She realized that if
I stayed in the South,
I would get killed.
And I think this is the
which motivated them to leave.
- When there was a lynching in
the South,
all the research shows
that there was a spike
in the number of people leaving
that town heading North.
People would pack
as much as they could into
boxes, into suitcases,
and whatever they could and get
on that transportation and
- Particularly, as a
where you own nothing, you've
angered a local white person
and you fear that there
might be a lynch mob
or posse after you.
That part of what the Great
is about is getting away.
- The Great Migration is the
largest migration of people
within the United States.
I mean, it really starts
in the early 20th century
and African Americans
are leaving their homes
in the Southern States, and
they're moving to the North,
they're moving to the West,
and they're moving to
cities like L.A., New York,
and Chicago, and Detroit,
and Philadelphia.
And they are fleeing
they are fleeing terrorism, and
and they are fleeing economic
- "I pick up
my life and take it with me.
"And I put it down in Chicago,
"I pick up my life and
take it on the train
"to Los Angeles,
"Salt Lake.
"Any place that is North and
"and not South."
Langston Hughes, 1949
- From 1916 to 1970,
over six million African
Americans migrated
from the South, North.
These people eventually
got tired of sharecropping,
tired of the lynchings,
tired of the brutality,
tired of the subservience.
A lot of black people saw
this as an opportunity
to head North, where there were
where they could make much
better money
than they could in the South.
- "With ever watchful eyes
"and bearing scars, visible and
"I headed North,
"full of a hazy notion that life
"could be lived with dignity."
Richard Wright, 1945.
- Let's look at a place like
Before The Great Migration,
around three to four
percent of the population
was African American.
After The Great Migration,
over 40% was African American.
- Some people didn't have
any idea where Detroit was.
I mean, some of the letters
that was coming from some of the
they couldn't even spell
But it represented a certain
kind of a Shangri-La paradise,
an opportunity to get away
from the Ku Klux Klan,
the Jim Crow system, the boll
and what have you.
But you're not gonna have a
heavy influx
of African Americans until
Henry Ford makes his offer.
Five dollars a day.
Makes it sound like,
"My goodness, this is
a hell of a windfall."
So if you're a sharecropper
and you're hearing
about that, that means that
you dispense with the hoe,
you dispense with the
plow, you shoot the mule.
And get the next thing smokin'
out of there and get there
as fast as you can to one
of those jobs.
- Looking
back, Jim Crow laws really
came to a legal climax in 1896,
when the Supreme Court made
of the races legal all across
the country
in the Plessy v. Ferguson case.
And from then on, segregation
had the force of law.
Segregation laws existed
all over the country.
But 1896 was a major turning
point in another way.
Because by 1896, the
automobile had been invented.
- It's difficult to overstate
the importance of the road
and the car on American life.
The most distinctive
aspect of American culture
is probably its mobility.
We did not invent the
automobile or the road.
But, in fact, it was
here that they reached
their fullest expression.
The Model T, of course,
revolutionized American life.
- The automobile opens
up an incredible new world of
When you have cars,
you have to have people
who manufacture automobiles.
- Ford Motor Company, amazingly,
was sort of progressive on the
issue of African Americans,
much earlier than some of the
other automobile companies.
Of course, Henry Ford is
a highly prejudiced man,
deeply anti-Semitic.
So it's a good way of
that people are very complex.
- Most Black workers were
stuck in the most unpleasant,
most dangerous jobs in the auto
One was working in the
which were these huge furnaces,
where steel was forged.
Hot, unpleasant, and dangerous.
Second, was African American
workers were often involved
in lifting engines.
Backbreaking work.
It was sometimes called
because it was so dangerous.
Those were the kind of jobs
that African Americans
mostly found themselves
in, if they were lucky
enough to get a job in the auto
- Things were not perfect
when African Americans moved
to the North.
They found themselves in
segregated communities,
they found discrimination,
but they still were able
to have a better life
than they had on the farms in
the South.
- African
American men sometimes made
as much as 90 cents on
a white man's dollar.
Ford and GM employed
numerous African Americans
and they offered
a real pathway to middle class
that had previously been
for many African Americans.
- I mean, the car really
does break everything up.
It takes a while for certain
groups to be able to adopt it.
But once mass production hits in
and the price of a Model
T drops dramatically,
it becomes like three or $400,
so it's a lot more affordable.
And then it's just a snowball
By 1925, people start to buy
used cars,
and that becomes a new market as
People can now buy not a new car
for $300,
but a used car for
something in a $100 range.
- So that by the late 1920s,
there was one automobile
for every five Americans.
In 1929, almost every
American, including lots
of African Americans, North and
could have gotten in an
automobile and driven away.
- If you're an African American
and you can afford a car,
even if it's a used car,
it provides a powerful
to the daily indignities
of riding the rails,
of riding a streetcar,
of riding a bus.
- What happens
is African Americans
see purchasing cars
or driving in cars
as a way of getting
out of the segregated,
humiliating experiences
of train travel.
And so there's a real sense of
and a sense of pride,
and a sense of freedom,
a kind of final attainment of
after all of this effort
and all of this struggle
to be able to take a trip
and still enjoy one's own
humanity while traveling.
- What the automobile allows
is personal freedom.
Once someone in a family
could buy an automobile,
then it's possible to leave.
And you see these photographs of
with all their belongings packed
on the car and they're leaving.
They're getting out.
The car gives you this personal
but you're still African
in a society based on white
- As the roadways open
up, you have a parallel
movement occurring.
For white Americans,
they're discovering the joys
of the open road.
They see this as a place
where they can maybe drive
to California, see the Grand
go to Death Valley, or
something like that.
See a big city.
For African Americans, this
movement on the open road
is about seeking an
opportunity for a better life.
White people don't have to think
about it because the myth of the
open road
was created for them.
Think about all of those
All of those commercials.
Did you see black people
in those commercials?
- The open road at last.
When you're going places,
knowing how to get ready
to go and how to get where
you're going are important.
But knowing how to relax
and have fun while you'regoing
is most important of all.
- They never really thought
about black people driving the
And when they did, it
was always a curiosity.
- No passenger
car has ever made this trip,
where there is no road.
Don't blame for getting excited,
an automobile is news in
this part of the world.
- So while many white Americans
are using their vacation time
to go to national parks
or travel elsewhere
in the country, many African
who have moved to the
North are now driving
back to the South to visit
who did not leave.
This is a really important
part of the story,
that there was a kind
of constant movement
to come back to the South,
there's kind of a culture of
for funerals, for weddings,
for family reunions,
and other occasions.
- It wasn't only about
seeing the relatives,
it was paying respect.
You went back to share
whatever money you had saved,
you went back to the church
so that people could see
how well you were doing.
You went back to have mama'sfood
or your grandmother's food
that you couldn't get up North.
All of those were really
great bonds in people.
So despite knowing the risk
of going back to the South,
you still wanted to go back.
- It also becomes a way
that African Americans
who had moved to the North
kind of use their cars
to sort of show off or showboat,
as it was often called.
To sort of show how great
life in the North was.
- There is a way in which some
African Americans, prevented
from actually owning other
forms of property, forms
of real estate, okay, develop
this idea that you can
put your personhood,
the evidence of how well
you're doing, in a car.
- And to have a Cadillac parked
out in front of your house,
in your driveway, was a sign
that you had kind of broke
You had made it.
- A car is consistently a status
What you drive reflects who you
Whether you're a family
and you're driving a Ford
station wagon,
or you're Adam Clayton Powell,
and you're driving a Cadillac.
The automobile reflects who you
- The car comes to
represent what many historians
would call a notion of
democratic person-hood.
That you, as an individual,
can pilot your car to do
whatever it is you want to do.
And it becomes a symbol
of American freedom.
In film, in songs, in poems,
in stories, cars represent
the open road, the ability to
the ability to control your own
- There is a long standing
with the road in American
The road symbolizes freedom,
opportunity, discovery.
And that's a big part of
American cultural history,
but it leaves out other
of other communities.
- Geographically,
we were completely separated
into spaces that were divided by
So black people didn't venture
into white spaces, whitepeople
generally didn't venture
into black spaces.
But the automobile changes that,
Highways intersect all of these
and now people are out on the
road moving between spaces.
And it changes interactions,
it changes etiquette,
it changes the way we
think about one another
and the way we interact with one
And it really starts
to open up the country
in ways that it had never
been opened up before.
- I think the myth of mobility
in the United States, rests
upon white people's experience
with cars.
For African Americans,
trips across country
are not adventures.
They can often be trials.
- Black Americans had a
very different experience
from white Americans.
White Americans took for granted
that if you move your
Buick, Oldsmobile or Ford
onto a highway, first of all,
there will be a gas station
If something happens to it,
you can get it repaired.
But, secondly, somewhere along
that road,
there's a place to stay.
It's hard for the rest of us to
what it must have been like
with a car full of your
family, whom you love,
and the kids are crying and
they want something to eat
and your wife is saying, "We
gotta stop for the night."
And what do you do?
- Well, in the South you
knew where you could go
and where you couldn't go.
You knew you couldn't go
into white restaurants,
you knew that.
- Well, you adjust to the
You know what you gotta do,
where you gotta go.
You couldn't go in a
restaurant, sit down and eat.
They'd sell you something
at the side window.
- African Americans have to
this instinct he calls
and that is an ability
to figure out where they're
where they're allowed
and where if they go their
might not work out so well.
Because you understand
that you're not welcome
everywhere that you go.
- No Jim Crow in your own car.
Your car was your own
personal private space.
African-Americans would
carry everything they needed
in their cars.
My parents would always carry
of those big green Coleman
those big, heavy metal
coolers and it would be full
of fried chicken and potato
and you would always carry
that you needed.
And it never dawned on me
at the time why that was.
I guess I thought it was
that we always had all the
blankets and all the pillows
in the car,
but we never stopped.
- And it seemed
like we always left at night,
because it was safer at night.
We didn't run into anybody
that would give us trouble.
- You slept in the car you slept
at a family friend's.
And you're always afraid
sleeping in the car,
somebody stay awake,
because you don't know
what's gonna happen.
White folks pull up on you and
do whatever they want to you,
you know.
And that was always the danger.
You'd try to pull back in
the woods, off the highway,
where you might not be observed.
That was the condition.
- So one of the hazards
of driving
was encountering people
who were less interested
in you being in that
particular neck in the woods.
And I say, neck in the woods,
a neck in the woods, watch
out for being lynched,
or being harassed or terrified
by these night riders
and people who absolutely,
the most brutal aspects
of racism were exercised on
these drivers.
- That's part of what Jim Crow
was about.
Is the anxiety that African
Americans felt
whenever they were in a place
that they didn't know well,
because they didn't know
what the lines were.
But I think it is very difficult
to understand for young people,
because it had these
kind of invisible rules,
that everyone knew were there.
And to cross them could
result in your death.
- You really didn't know
where you were stopping
and who might be unfriendly.
And even if people were
not physically violent,
they might say things thatwere
upsetting and humiliating.
And so, it was better not to
- So that's why people had cars.
It was safer to have
one, to get around in.
And as long as you knew
where to get some gas,
and you never knew who
would sell gas to you.
And so we knew about that
- I got up to Chattanooga,
And the odd thing, we're
hungry, we're tired.
And I stopped the black guy,
and I asked him,
"Where could I go to
find something to eat?"
And he told us that there
was a restaurant called
a Yellow Front Restaurant.
And my partner jumped out the
car fast
and he wasn't paying
attention, he was hungry.
He was running in.
And I'm calling to him,
saying, "No, look out.
"Wait, wait."
'Cause they still had the signs
Black and white had the
two different entrance.
The counter was in between,
so they could serve the white
and the blacks on each side.
The jukebox was on our side.
And we ordered food.
It never came.
And then a guy came out
andcame around to play the jukebox.
And I never will forget this.
He played the song,
"Don't You Be Here When The
Morning Come."
So I told my partner, I said,
"You don't have to worry.
"We'll be outta here and
we'll be in another state
"when the morning come."
- Driving gives African
Americans incredible freedom,
but it also was dangerous.
- It was a very different time
driving through the country,
because you went through
a lot of small towns,
you had to go through a main
you had to go in and out of
sundown towns.
There were so many things
that you couldn't possibly
prepare for.
- "I grew
up in Texas in the 50s and 60s
"during Jim Crow.
"During that time, long
distance road trips
"had a distinct flavor for
"and I remember it vividly.
"Packing enough food for the
entire trip.
"No restaurants,
using the bathroom on the side
of the road,
"no gas station bathrooms.
"Sleeping in the car on the
side of the road, no motels.
"My most vivid memory was
the sign I read every time
"we went through Greenville.
"Greenville The Blackest
Land, The Whitest People."
Vernellia Randall.
- So the car sort of at all
in history, it has this
very conflicted role.
On the one hand, it often
is offering opportunity,
it's offering the ability
to feel a sense of freedom.
But then, on the other
hand, it also exposes people
to more forms of violence,
to more forms of
indignity and humiliation.
- It's extraordinarily
important to remember
that the road map might well be
for a white family moving
across the United States.
For a Black family, the roadmap
was in fact, instrumental,
but not complete.
It wasn't the body of
information that they needed
to make that journey safely.
- African
Americans wanted to travel,
just as white Americans wanted
to travel.
They wanted to see the country.
They wanted their children to
see museums,
and to see the national parks,
and know and love the country.
The problem with going out in a
you're traversing white spaces.
And it could be quite dangerous.
You had to take precautions,
knowing the routes
that you were going to
travel, what communities
you'd be going through, where
you might stop for the night,
because you could encounter a
You could make the wrong turn
and end up in a community
that was not very welcoming,
that was not very friendly.
And many, many African Americans
during Jim Crow accidentally
into the wrong spaces.
- There was this concept
that you had to go
from known people to
known people to be safe.
So it is a kind of word-of-mouth
that gets bigger and bigger,
because local knowledge,
knowing people along the route
was enormously important.
So these guides come
in to fill in this gap.
Because everybody doesn't
know someone in all parts
of the country.
- So here is a travel guide,
it's just a pamphlet you could
have gotten
that lists all of these
hotels, and motels,
and guest houses.
It has some advertisements
on the back.
- There were
a series of travel guides
that were produced that
provided information
for African American travelers
about places to stay,
places to eat, places
that would be safe as they
were driving along the road.
There was Smith's Guide,
there was Grayson's Guide,
there was the Traveler's Guide.
And of course, there was the
Negro Motorist Green Book,
which is the guide that
everyone has heard about.
- "We obtained
"the most important book needed
"for Negroes who traveled
anywhere in the United States.
"It was called the Green Book.
"The Green Book was the bible
"of every Negro highway
"You literally didn't dare
leave home without it."
Earl Hutchinson Senior.
- Victor
Green was the businessman
who started The Negro
Motorist's Green Book,
which was an African American
travel guide
that started in 1936
and it was a simple listing by
of tourist homes and
guesthouses, hotels
and motels, restaurants,
even beauty parlors and
that African Americans could use
as they traveled throughout the
- He was a postman
who lived up in Harlem,
but had a route in New Jersey.
He and his wife, Alma,
would go back to the South
to visit her relatives during
the summer.
So I think what was
the personal motivation
was this trip back to the South.
How can I do this trip without
to experience the indignations
of segregation and Jim Crow?
- It was an ingenious idea that
he had.
I mean, this is a man
that had no real capital, no
He found a white publisher.
- The name of the company
was Gibraltar Printing and
It appears sometimes in the
Green Book.
And at that time,
my father was a printer.
They used to print what
they call dream books,
which were very popular in
Harlem before the lottery.
And people would have a dream.
If they dreamed of a cat,
it'd be number seven.
If they dream of a dog, it's
number two.
And somebody always hit the
because there was enough
And Mr. Green came up, and I was
a kid,
maybe 10 years old or so.
And I remember meeting him
and he was very tall and
- He had the courage, but also
the resilience in knowing,
"I'ma leave Harlem,
"I'm gonna go to Midtown,
"I'm gonna find a white
There's a certain kind
of person that does that.
- We started to print
in the plant at the time.
For some reason, there were
a lot of Italian printers,
And when they found out
Mr. Green was black,
they didn't wanna print the
So my dad, very pragmatic, said,
"Listen guys, if you don't wanna
print it,
"I'll get somebody else to do
your job,
"because as long as it's
not illegal or pornographic,
"we're gonna print it."
So they changed their mind
and they ended up staying
in the job and printing the
Green Book.
- The other
advantage that Victor Green
had was that he knew these
black marketing executives
at Esso gas station.
Esso was the Standard Oil,
which is ExxonMobil today.
Victor Green knew James Jackson.
And because James Jackson'sjob
as a representative of Esso
was to capitalize on this black
but also to give black
businesses opportunities
to be connected to Esso,
it was again a symbiotic
it was a win-win.
There were so many people
that worked for Esso gas
stations at every level
of the business who were Black.
Black men franchised and
rantheir own gas stations at Esso,
this wasn't true for any
of the other companies.
And so when Victor Green
became the key travel guide
for Esso, for their Black
the Green Book was at nearly
every Esso gas station.
So that was another distribution
that allowed the Green
Book to become successful.
It grew very very fast.
Within a couple of years,
it had expanded to
practically every state, east
of the Mississippi River.
It blew the boundaries
of where you could go.
The fact that it allowed you
to map
where you're going to go next.
- So that's why the
Green Book was indispensable.
It had to give you some
way to find a place
where you could be relieved,
you could get some rest,
get something to eat,
without being violated.
- Guidebooks like this act
as a sort of transect through
the American experience.
So it's almost like cutting a
that cuts through tourism,
the civil rights movement,
education, professional
almost every kind of important
thing that was changing
in the 1950's and 60's
is touched in some way
by these guides.
- Mark Twain said, "Travel is
fatal to prejudice, bigotry,
"and narrow-mindedness."
And this is the phrase
that Victor Green adopted
as his mantra for the
Negro Motorist Green Book.
I think when Mark Twain said
it, he was talking broadly about
all people in all cultures.
But I think for Victor
Green, he was talking
about travel being fatal
to white prejudice.
- Well, this is the whole thing.
It's like separation
permits the continuation
the perpetuation of stereotypes,
and fear, and disbelief.
But every time people come
together on equal terms,
there's this moment, where
you don't have the apparatus
of racism around you anymore.
And there's a moment in an
where your racism is challenged.
And so travel allows that to
- Victor Green's
mantra was an effort
to convince white people in this
that Black people were just like
- The Green Book actually does
for us that we need.
It reminds us of the world
that black people created under
the regime of segregation.
And we don't need to be
nostalgic about Jim Crow,
to celebrate the extraordinary
of the brilliance of black
the men and women who built
businesses in the confines
of a viscous segregation system.
- There's a certain kind
of harmonious collectivity
there, in terms of the
overall progress of the people
and how you can now unify and
fight back
against some of these elements
of discrimination and
- This is just new data to us,
it's a new way to look at
to map Black businesses.
I mean, the Green Book in and of
was a travel guide,
but was also more of a testimony
to Black entrepreneurship,
I mean, to me, that's really
what it is.
- And so you
have this parallel world
that African Americans have
that enabled them to move
to continue moving forward.
- Rock Rest holds
a very warm place in my heart,
because it was the home of
family friends.
The woman who ran Rock
Rest was Aunt Hazel.
She knew how to cook everything
and she served her guests
the best of everything.
Every Sunday was lobster day,
so that would be Lobster
Of course, everything is
She could just do it all.
- The women were
truly entrepreneurial.
Think, in all these small towns,
where people needed a place to
where these women they
would make you food,
they would have information
about where you could go
to get your hair done,
local church services.
They were a font of information
that gave the travelers
during that period
of time, a lot of that security.
They wanted the familiar things,
the food,
the smells, the warmth.
- Black people in these spaces
had dreams
and they were fully aware of
those dreams,
and they're still having a good
even though they're living in a
that tries to limit their
mobility in terms of
where they can be and in who
they can be
and that's not going to
stop them from dreaming.
And if you were doing this
during the 50s
you also had to be a bit aware
about where that good time was
being had.
- Oh Lord, eons ago.
That was when the motel was
- Started with about three or
four rooms.
But he invested in the business
so that it
got at least to about 35 rooms.
Ray Charles' band used
to come through a lot,
if they were playin'
anywhere in the South.
I can remember one time
Dinah Washington sat
at the piano and played, you
and then joined them.
- Idlewild is another brilliant
What an amazing space.
It's like around this
lake, houses, beautiful,
they were horseback
riding, playing outside.
It was known as the Chitlin
Famous Black singers would come
So they're partying,
they're having a great time.
- I also think that we need to
the story about Jim Crow America
around what was denied and more
these folks didn't take that
and go,
"This was what was denied
to us."
they said, "Here's a niche
We are going to take advantage
of those opportunities
and build institutions,
build businesses, build
Somebody's got to do that work.
Here are the folks that saw an
for that work to be done,
and took advantage of it.
- His vision for Lincoln
Hills was for Winks
to be a country club for black
That was his vision.
And he built that lodge
up there and cabins
around for people to rent.
And there were people from all
It was like a resort.
- Well, for me, I think it's the
significance that my
great-grandfather felt.
It's a part of the American
It's a part of being
able to recreate a place
where they could feel
safe in the mountains.
Colorado has a sordid history,
like many other places.
In the '20s and '30s, the KKK
was very prevalent in Colorado.
There were many members of the
that were in either government
or police departments,
but Lincoln Hills was a safe
for my great-grandfather,
the grandchildren like me.
- Five Points was something
that you could smile about.
It was just like the streets
of Vegas.
If you came down here
and you was feeling low,
it wasn't for long.
- The Rossonian Hotel was,
and still is,
one of the jewels of the
Five Points neighborhood.
Artists like Ella Fitzgerald,
Duke Ellington, Louis
Armstrong, Miles Davis,
would be able to perform all
over the city
and metro area, but
couldn't stay in the hotels
in the white neighborhoods.
They would come to Five Points
and stay
at the Rossonian, where
they were allowed to stay,
and then party really started,
that around midnight or one
in the morning, up until
- The Dew Drop Inn?
Yes, that was the place to go.
That was Frank Pania's place.
- The Dew Drop was a place,
it wasn't a
kinda place.
When there was a show
going on, people dressed.
This place really, as far as the
of New Orleans, is such a
valuable piece
in the city's history.
Everybody who was somebody in
town, when they came to town,
they wanted to at least pass
through here,
to see what The Dew Drop was.
I mean, we talking Senators;
we talking big shots, movie
that would come in and
want to come in and see
what was going on.
'Cause they'd heard so
much about it, you know.
- The West has always been
a mythology of freedom.
It was manifest destiny, it was
this idea
that if you just headed
West, things will get better
or that there were
it was this kind of wide-open
and I think that signifiedalso
as far as you could dream,
it just expanded your horizons.
- So by the turn of the 20th
Los Angeles had become the
largest center
of the African American
population in the West.
They had an inkling that
maybe there's something
out there in Los Angeles.
And maybe I can and I can
have upward
mobility, and I can have
a better quality of life
for my kids, and I can
buy some real estate.
And it's warmer there.
So they were buying into
the California dream,
just as other Americans
were when they were coming out
With the caveat that
they were also escaping
the worst of Jim Crow
and racial harassment and
- I think in the United States,
the idea of play is a privilege.
Recreation is a privilege.
Leisure is a privilege.
If you have to work
all the time and/or you
are poor working class you
don't have time for leisure.
It doesn't mean you
don't know how to play.
So you can buy a beach, you can
show up
in these spaces regardless
and tell a different kind
of story regardless of what
the dominant culture is doing.
- Now you smell that?
Pull it out.
Don't burn yourself.
That I call tutti-frutti pork.
We glaze it with apricot jelly
and put the peaches and
the prunes around it.
And it tastes kinda good.
And it looks good, so
I hope it tastes good.
It's fun cooking and I've
been in this kitchen 70 years.
My mother-in-law started this,
in 1939.
About 1946, that's when I
started cooking in here.
Black people didn't eat Shrimp
and cream sauces.
"Oh this girl
gonna ruin your business."
It wasn't that I'm never
it's because I think as
long as you living you
gotta keep trying to move up.
- My grandparents started this
because they were a people
who enjoyed community.
People came here to celebrate
anniversaries, weddings, and
many other things.
So when you came here, you came
into their home.
This place means not only a lot
to me,
but a lot to many people in the
because it was one of the few
that African Americans could go.
- I fed everybody.
From James Baldwin, Thurgood
the whole kit and caboodle.
Even when the civil rights
people came,
the policemen didn't worry us.
All the civil-rights movement,
the Freedom Riders who
left from here met here.
They made all the plans right
in this restaurant.
This was the only restaurant
where people
of color could come and sit down
and have a drink, have a
You were not gonna have any
This was a safe haven for all of
Once they were inside this
nobody was gonna worry them.
- At Saint Charles Missouri,
the first tons of earth weremoved
to make way for tomorrow.
A tomorrow which will look like
across the length and breadth of
this will be the look of the
The first part of the
plan is the magnificent
new interstate highway system.
Over this network you'll be able
to drive
from border to border or
coast to coast without
ever seeing a traffic stop
- In the 1950s, our government
the decision that we were going
to be a nation of drivers.
- The introduction of the
and the interstate
highway system, I think,
radically changed people's
notion of time and space.
- There has
been a lot of excitement
in America from coast to coast.
In almost every state,
banners have been unfurled,
bands have played,
and people have gathered
to hear eloquent speeches,
as Americans gathered to
the completion of local
sections of the national
system of interstate and defense
- Kind of like the railroad
in the 19th century helped
to facilitate not just the
but also the idea of a
unified nation, a continent.
I think the automobile
accelerated those experiences.
- There's a very complicated
around the interstate.
The interstate for Black
travelers creates
a very positive kind of
benefit in that the interstate
makes travel safer in many ways
because instead of travelingon
country roads and back roads
where there was quite a bit of
and quite a bit of uncertainty
about what could happen,
traveling on interstates
felt more safe and more secure.
- The interstate highway program
was built with this myth of
That it's what everybody wanted.
It's by popular demand.
But for people of color,
and for African Americans
in particular, they were kind of
out of that consensus
because their neighborhoods
were the sacrificial lands
in which to build this highway.
- As part of the overall plan,
one of the freeways serving our
will pass near Hilldale.
Well ladies and gentlemen,
I think the most important
is not where the automobiles
come from
but how they're going to get
where they're trying to go.
- If you travel along,
south Claiborne Avenue, you'll
some very old, live oak trees.
Which, was emblematic of New
The point is, that is one of the
that was destroyed by this
And so the expressway, was
this black community as
a stake through the heart
of the Faubourg Treme, also is
of a broader sense of
attempting to take back
areas of the city that
were largely black areas
and repurpose them in such a way
that's to be of greater
service to white people.
- So highway construction
African American neighborhoods
in cities
throughout the nation.
Under the Interstate Highway
highway construction was
coordinated with another
federal program, of slum
- The thing that people usually
say is,
these were dying communities
and we needed the overpasses,
we needed the highways
to move people out of
these ghetto environments.
Well in fact, these were
that were vibrant.
That people were living in.
That the United States
government destroyed
through a combination of active
of detrimental projects, and
a kind of benign neglect.
- They created this very rigid
of categorizing neighborhoods
as either very desirable
or very undesirable.
The primary criteria for
this system was race.
That is to say that if a
particular neighborhood
had even one African American
in that neighborhood, that
was immediately designated as a
and it was coded in the color
And that's where we get
the term redlining from.
Highway construction impacted
Black communities or other non
communities, because that's
where property
values were the lowest.
There is a certain kind of cost
strategy in building highways
through neighborhoods with
lower property values.
It costs the state less.
However, historically,
lower property values
have been tied to race
and African Americans
in particular.
In many ways all of these
federal policies
and programs were
The Federal Housing
Administration's policies,
urban renewal, slum clearance,
highway construction,
all of these processes
worked in tandem with each other
to create
an even more racially
stratified geography.
- And they did that so fast,
I'm telling you.
Because Black people were not
in anything in those days.
People would do things,
we didn't even know
what was going on.
We were not involved.
In those days we were not
into the process, so they just
through there with that
thing, took away houses;
took away good businesses, good
- And to watch neighborhoods
absolutely devastated,
torn apart, demolished.
Houses, boom.
Here comes these freeways.
Here comes these here easy
passages out
of the city or coming into the
That meant neighborhoods were
- I can see it in Newark, New
and when my daughter was young,
I wanted to take her and
showher where I had grown up.
And I couldn't find my way
around Newark,
because there's a highway
that's been put through it.
- When road planners put through
they often take the path
of least resistance,
And that's one of the reasons
that Black communities
have been so vulnerable,
because they have the
least amount of power
to stop it.
- You see it again and again in
every major city in America,
and it was really a huge
economic setback for many
African American businesses
because they became isolated.
- If you retrace it and if you
go to some of these areas
that were once bustling
Black business districts,
now often they are abandoned
sometimes they are abandoned,
sort of, empty fields.
I think the scars on the
landscape are very telling.
There's so many Green Book
that I have taken
photographs of just freeway,
because there was a list of
maybe 10 or 20 sites and now
they were just literally torn
- It's gone.
So the biggest, most important
of physical evidence that
we have of our racial
landscape is missing one half of
So to me, that's a huge
reason why it's become
easy to not know this history
- When you erase a history,
you erase an identity.
You erase what's important to
and how they connect with their
and how they connect
with humanity as a whole.
When you lose that culture and
that space
now there's a chink in
the chain of your family
legacy and you start to wonder,
does my legacy matter?
Does my life matter?
- Imagine, you own a business
that you or your family's
had for 10, 20, 50 years.
Near North Claiborne Avenue,
you're not gonna immediately
shut down,
because the overpass comes
But part of what comes with the
is a culture of modernity that
that you should no longer
go to your neighborhood
store, you should get
on the expressway and go to
the stores in the suburbs.
First of all, it means the death
of small
neighborhood stores, in general.
And in the Black community,
in particular, were doomed.
But they have now gone through
and started
adding new paintings
beneath the expressway
to try to bring life to what
is otherwise a dead space.
And recently my father's
portrait was added
to those that are being painted
And so, of course, I'm torn.
To have him memorialized in that
means a lot to me, but of course
the great
fault of these highways was the
to which they thought that
this concrete could create
a new culture.
And these things, while they
destroyed a great bit of what I
of and what I know of is
the meaning of American life
and culture.
We're still able to maintain a
of ourselves and we're still
able to speak
about the necessity of taking
some of these things to get
back to a truer expression
of who we are.
- It's not easy to feel
about the modern world in that
kind of chaotic environment.
Your physical body surrounded
by these massive layers of
with these machines moving
at 80 miles an hour next
to you, above you, below you.
And to see that kind of cultural
in the most unexpected place
of a highway interchange,
or beneath a highway
To me, gives me hope.
It reminds me that people
are not going to lay down and
They're not going to let
themselves be paved over
by the highway and their
They will insist that their
voices are heard and seen.
They can draw creative
from the most dismal aspects
of modern urban life.
I don't mean to sound
but I do think that there is a
of intrinsic value to
that kind of cultural work
and to that kind of
determination to assert
the dignity and the
vitality of neighborhoods,
even after those neighborhoods
have been destroyed.
There's this great way
in which the automobile
constantly shows up as a
as a player in black people's
struggle for emancipation.
- The Civil Rights Movement
couldn't have happened
without the automobile.
- The car allows activists from
places to get together and to
To get to a destination
where there is a protest
or a voter registration campaign
going on.
A lot of smaller places,
in the Mississippi
Delta, or the Black Belt
of Alabama, or central Georgia
are not so easily accessible
by bus or by train.
A car allows folks to convene
and gather
in relatively small places.
And to move pretty quickly from
one place
to the next, if there's
a call for an action
or a campaign in a different
or a different city.
Or if things go bad and
you want to get out,
the car can provide a quick
way to exit a situation.
- The Montgomery BusBoycott is actually
a story of transportation
in many ways.
It's the bus boycott.
But it's also how it was
that African American
women managed to establish and
to reuse
a network of connections to
their resources to sustain
this boycott over months
and months and months.
And it meant, in fact, accessing
It meant finding new ways to
move people
around town, new ways
to actually get people
to their jobs.
And so Montgomery is in many
ways actually
a wonderful way of thinkingabout
how Black people deployed
the automobile to challenge Jim
- It's really the car and the
of carpools that allowed for
the Montgomery Bus Boycott
to be the success,
the dramatic success that it
- Marking
1964 as a historic year
in race relations, on July
2nd President Johnson signed
into law the Civil Rights Act.
It was the strongest federal law
the slaves were freed a century
- I think the passing
of the Civil Rights Act
is really ironic, because of
what happens
to African American businesses.
Because, you have these
vibrant businesses,
tourist homes, and guest houses,
and these incredible resorts and
that are segregated, that are
serving a black clientele,
but you don't have white people
deciding that they're going to
these businesses once
segregation is gone.
- When The Green Book first
started, yes,
it gave you the safe havens.
But that drive between the safe
full of risk and uncertainty.
With the passing of the Civil
Rights Act
and then the gradual
of the provisions of it, the
drive between
the safe havens became safer.
Victor Green himself said he
there to be a day when
there would be no need
for the Green Book.
So he imagined his own
And gradually he was right.
People stopped staying at the
They stopped stopping at
only these restaurants.
- There are dozens of
theseAfrican American travel guides.
The Green Book is just
the most long-lasting.
this won't be necessary.
We know that the day is coming
when this won't be necessary."
- What The Green Book teaches
it's great to think of it as
to a parallel highway to
American history.
There's the quote, unquote,
the "American highway,"
which is in fact a white
highway through American history
and there's the "Black
highway" or the highway
for people of color.
The highway for the marginalized
and the disenfranchised people.
And so we often do not talk
about the cost
of the Civil Rights Movement
to the very people it was
meant to help.
- It was a blessing and a curse,
because all of these
Blackbusinesses it was significant
that they were no longer
in the Green Book.
And yet, the pain of progress
is you know
trying to move forward
into these white spaces
that black people have
been shut out of.
- When integration came
we lost a lot
in the Black community.
Because there were
some people, well,
naturally, they want to explore.
They want to see what it's
like to live
on this side.
They wanted to see what
it's like
to go different places.
They said to my husband
Dook, they said: "Dook,
you should move.
Because all of the people
with money
that's been coming to you will
go in the white restaurants.
You know, they will not come
to you, you should move."
I told Dooky no.
You can't run away from
And so we stayed on this
corner and just made it work.
- All of a sudden, as I'm
speaking and telling them
about what I knew of the
and one person stopped
and asked me, say: "Well,
who owned the store on so-and-so
And I would start to
explain to them
what the businesses were, who
owned them.
And all of a sudden it
slapped me in my face
that we had lost so much.
We had went backwards.
Because so many of these
was black-owned you know,
that we could take pride in.
And I look around now,
there's less and less black
- Culture is lost.
History is lost.
So many of the places that are
in these travel guides, the
only thing we know about them
is the address.
We have very, very little
material evidence of most of
these places.
And I think many African
American people
didn't think that their
their history was
important for a long time.
And so they didn't save
some of these things,
but there, you know, there
are vestiges
of clubs and restaurants
that we can still find.
We can still find some of
that history.
- David, we're going to be
moving to a new neighborhood.
- Why, I don't want to.
- Well, it's not what you want,
I think it's best for you
and the family.
- One of the things that
the automobile does,
it allows all Americans
to move to the suburbs,
and Black Americans move
to the suburbs as well.
Where everyone had a car
because you
had to have a car in order
to get around.
So I think the automobile
really facilitated that
class movement.
It facilitated suburban life
for many African Americans.
- Finally, when you get
this chance,
this chance to get above
the ghetto,
get above the slums.
You're happy, you're
enthusiastic about it.
And finally you think
that you have made it
into America, the American
- Yes?
- How do you do?
Would you please ask the
lady of the house
how much milk she needs?
- I'm the lady of the house
and I don't need any milk,
thank you.
- After moving to the suburbs,
African-Americans found
that perhaps suburban
life was not as idyllic as we
had hoped.
- The term is racial profiling.
The nickname is "DWB"
"Driving While Black."
- "Driving While Black."
- "Driving While Black."
- I think the automobile is
the way
that many people encounter
the police.
And I think that's where we
start to get
the term, "Driving While Black."
- My um address on my license
doesn't match the address
that's in the system, it
was a mistake at the DMV
and the sheriff pulled me
over and made racial slurs
toward me cause I told him I
didn't think
I was driving that fast.
And he pulled out his gun on me.
- One of the things
that you ought to think
about is a variety of
studies that were conducted
in the '70s and '80s,
and up to the present,
that are exploring traffic
police traffic stops.
- But what exactly is racial
Drivers all over the country
have said,
they have been targeted by
They call it "Driving
While Black."
And Dozens of law enforcement
and civil rights groups
have begun gathering
information on the practice.
- It's impossible to understand
the clashes between African
Americans and the police.
The countless stories of
Black folks pulled over
for "Driving while Black"
without embedding that in
the long history of conflict
between African Americans and
law enforcement over mobility.
These go back to slave patrols.
Those don't go away in terms
of people's consciousness,
their memories.
The images of African Americans
being brutally beaten,
is a reminder that no
matter what your status,
no matter what your class,
if you're marked with a
dark skin,
you are going to be subject
to particularly punitive
policing and discipline.
- A cop is a cop.
- But it doesn't mean he's right
And yeah, he may be,
he may be a very nice man,
but I haven't got the
time to figure that out.
All I know is that he
has a uniform and a gun,
and I have to relate to him
in that way.
That's the only way to
relate to him, at all.
'cause one of us is gonna,
one of us may have to die.
- Americans in particular love
to celebrate their history,
but they don't like to
look at it very closely.
We tend to look for the
least problematic way
of moving from the past to now.
And to move our society
beyond the point where it is,
one of the things we have to do
is just engage history with
a kind of brutal honesty.
- The vast majority of
whites who are bystanders,
who are indifferent,
who drive down the road past
the site of a police officer
frisking an African American man
against the side of his car,
or punching, and kicking and
beating him,
who are complicit in the
even if they would never dream
of committing it themselves.
And so what we see in everyday
like driving a car and the
police pulling folks over,
is a combination of official
of the threat of violence and
of widespread indifference
or complicity in that violence
by whites.
- There are still so many
dangers of being on the road,
and I think we're in a time
right now
where African Americans are
feeling a similar kind of fear
- It's not gonna get any
better I don't think,
I'm not at all optimistic.
- I think it's all gonna be the
- The numbers never lie,
this is certainly proof
that there is something grossly
with the State police.
- Our police are here to protect
They shouldn't be here to
hunt us down or pick on us
because we're not like them.
I think that this happens all
the time.
- This is a fear
thatconnects really strongly
to the present political
moment in terms
of African American safety on
the road,
and the encounters that we see
with law enforcement right now.
This is, there's a direct line
- Get out of the car!
- I'm getting out, let
me get out,
do not touch me, do not
touch me.
- Get out of the car now.
- Help!
Oh my God!
- And I think it's only,
it's only a surprise,
like this is a new
problem to white people.
It is not a new problem in
the history of the country.
- So for me, past is prologue.
What has gone down before
have been teachable moments,
sometimes you have to look back
and see where you have come
It begins to give us
someindication of the attitudes
that prevailed at that time,
and what did it take to
overcome that situation.
So we study the past
in order to understand
how it's been transformed.
- I'm going to
yank you out of here.
- Okay you gonna
yank me out my car?
- Because the indignities are
still there.
- Don't touch me.
- Get out of the car!
Get out! Now, get out of the
- What I think is a little
about the present,
- For a failure to signal,
you're doing all of this
for a failure to signal.
Right, yeah let's take this to
- Is that people's cell phones
and other recording devices
have made something that
African Americans
always knew was going on
- We in the backseat of the
police car.
- These incidents are not new.
What is new is the perception,
the understanding of other
who are not African American,
how deadly this could really be.
There's something similar,
that happens in the Civil
Rights Movement in the 1960s,
which is when television
comes in.
They begin to see these people,
marching calmly down the streets
and the police are surrounding
them and beating them.
Because they never knew that
this could really happen.
Something similar is going
on today,
where people who are not
African American
have begun to see,
wow, there is really a
tremendous difference
in what driving around
in the United States
and being black is than
the average white American.
So, today, what we have is
a wider social understanding
of this phenomenon.
And it is shocking, it's
very shocking.
- I bought a new car,
and I still had the dealer
tags on it.
First thing he asked
me, "Is this your car?"
And he's being anything
but pleasant.
All I kept thinking about was,
if someone,
like myself, who knows their
and I can still be taken
advantage of?
Any young man or woman
canhave the exact same thing done.
- Every time we're driving,
my hands immediately start
and it's like "you're behind me.
I don't know for what,
but you're behind me."
So let's just pray that
you don't hit your lights.
- So it's kind of the situation
where you feel like either
you comply or you die.
And you have to choose between
the two.
- I have my
daughter everywhere I go.
Before, I never feared
that I didn't imagine
being shot by the police
with my daughter in the car.
But now when I see police in my
rear view
and I'm about to be stopped,
my heart races.
- I think in every black family,
there are these ways in which
about our society is delivered.
And one of the things that,
one of the constant themes
is actually about safety.
And there is this cruel
reality in American society
that Black children are
cute until a certain age.
And what that age is never
very clear,
but black parents know.
My mother knew that
there was a point in time
when she had to tell her Black
what it meant to be male and
Black in the United States.
And It's a terrible
conversation to have to have,
but it's a necessary one.
- My cousins, my boyfriend,
my friends,
just about every Black male
I know has been stopped,
harassed somehow driving
while Black,
standing on the corner while
walking across the street while
I mean, as I think about it,
it gets me more pissed off
and upset every time I think
about it.
- So the question isn't
"Driving while Black."
We're at a moment where
it'sthe presence of the black body,
whether that body's in
movement or sedentary
is one that is considered a
and needs to be controlled.
And until we get to a place
in which we actually are trying
to live up to life, liberty,
and pursuit of happiness in
its totality
for every human being
who is in our society,
then we're not there yet.
- Could I see some ID
please sir?
- For what, for what?
- I need to see
your driver's license
and registration.
- For what?
- Step out of the car.
Stop! Stop! Hey! Hey! Stop!
- What he doing?
What the police doing,
what the police doing?
- Oh my God.
- Please step out the car.
Get out the car right now.
Get out the car.
Yes, get out now.
Get out the car.
Hands up.
- I can't put my hands up,
I have a baby in my hands.
- When I tell you to
do something
you do it.
- I can't put my hands up,
I have a baby in my arms.
- Hey! Hey!
Whoa, sir! Calm down!
That's how y'all treat black
people, huh?
- I was taught, many years ago,
that if the police stop you,
put your hands on the steering
And if you have passengers,
have them to put their
hands on the dashboard
or on the back of the seat.
Because when the police come up,
they see any kind of movement,
they already have their
guns out,
finger on the trigger.
And any kind of little movement
can 'cause them to kill you.
- One of the great fictions
of American racialism
is that there is things
Black people can do
to disarm white people to
avoid violent backlashes
from white people,
to make themselves less
threatening to white people.
There are things they can wear,
there are ways that they
can speak,
there are behaviors, mannerisms,
manners of walking that will
actually be less threatening.
And what that tends to do it
is tends
to normalize white violence.
It tends to give whiteviolence
a kind of rationality
that it never deserves.
And the reality is that there
is nothing
that black people can do
to disarm white violence.
The reality is that those
talks that parents have
with their kids are frustrating,
frightening and anxiety filled
precisely because that
that you're having with a
black child
about the dangers of
of moving through this society,
confess the powerlessness of
the parents
to actually protect their
- So if you are stopped
by a police officer,
I told my children, "You
keep your hands on the wheel,
you turn on the light in
the car,
so the police officer can see
you don't make any sudden
- When you're in a car and
you're an African American,
you know that any
incident could be violent.
Part of what they train you
to do
as you are learning to drive,
yes you're learning
how to operate the car,
yes you're learning what the
with people when you have
a problem.
- Take a look at me, I'm been...
even if you are taught that you
could die.
And the goal, which I said
over and over to my children,
your goal is to live long
enough to get to the jail,
where you can call us.
And then we will come, and
we will do everything we can.
We will find a lawyer,
I don't know what you,
care what you've done.
But your goal in this situation
is to live long enough to
call us.
Now, all of this might not
save you.
I-All of this might noto
save you,
and you know that too.
But the point is,
When you are training a
young African-American,
that is part of their education.
Now, maybe other people do
that with their children too,
but I don't think so to the
same degree.
Because they don't have
the sense
that if you're not really doing,
like maybe you went through
a red light, let's just say.
Okay, you're at fault.
But you're not really
worried that you're going
to die before you can
get to get back home.
- I think what makes me
most angry
is when I think about
my own children.
And when I think about my
who are ages six and four,
and I think about whether or not
things have changed
And sometimes I think they have,
and sometimes I realize
that it's
one step forward, two steps
Perhaps this is the
moment when white people
are as concerned as black people
about what's going on
withrace relations in this country.
- I'm a father, my son's17,
good kid, smart kid.
For any American who is out
there, any man, any parent,
I want them to look in my eyes
and ask themself a question
which is,
"How would you feel if you
were concerned
about your child being taken,
- Don't reach for it.
Don't pull it out, don't pull
it out!
- Life ended?
And when after all
investigation is done,
the reason why the life
was ended
was because there was a man
with a gun
who was afraid for his life?
- I told him not to
reach for it,
I told him to get his hand
out there.
- And because he was a
police officer,
because my son didn't comply,
whatever that means, he
would end up dead?
Tell me how you would feel
if that
was a real risk every day?
Tell me what you communicate
to your son.
I'm really asking,
what do you say?"
And do you show them anger?
Do you show your son hurt?
Do you show him fear?
Do you do something impractical
about it?
But to me, driving while black
is at its core driving while
And if I have to fear the State,
the State, that which
we are all a part of,
then am I member of the State?
Am I a member of the society?
Is my son a member of the
Those are real questions,
those are real questions.
- Why the y'all just shoot him?
Why the y'all just shoot
that man?
Y'all bogus as that's why
we don't like the police.
- Human life,
let it marinate in your
mouth, in your minds.
A human life, just
likeevery single one of y'all.
And everyone around us, we're
And his life matters.
So many people have reached out
to me,
telling me they're sorry
that this has been happening to
my family.
Well, don't be sorry, 'cause
this has been happening
to my family for a long time,
longer than I can account for.
It happened to Emmett Till,
Emmett Till is my family.
Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra,
this has been happening to my
And I shed tears for every
one of these people that it's
happened to.
This is nothing new, I'm not
I'm not sorry, I'm angry and I'm
I haven't cried one time,
I stopped crying years ago.
I am numb,
I have been watching police
murder people
that look like me for years.
I'm not sad, I don't want your
I want change.
This past, the Negro's past,
fear by day and night,
fear as deep as the marrow of
the bone,
doubt that he was worthy of
since everyone around him denied
This past this endless
struggle to achieve and reveal
and confirm a human identity.
Everything now, we must
assume is in our hands.
We have no right to assume
If we and now by that I meanthe
relatively conscious whites
and the relatively conscious
who must, like lovers, insist
or create the consciousness of
Do not falter in our duty now,
we may be able, handful that we
to end the racial nightmare,
and achieve our country
andchange the history of the world.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next
If you're not, you crossed a