- [Allyson] what it means to be American, is to take to the road.
- Mobility is essential freedom.
- [Man] Discovery, freedom.
- That notion of driving while black reminds us that that's not available to all Americans.
- [Carolyn] To be able to move freely, we live in a country where it's never been everybody's right.
- There are still so many dangers.
- [Man] Officer, I'm locking my car.
- We have to engage history with a kind of brutal honesty.
[music] - - [Narrator] "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 road.
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 nose, and limited of power, and our sea is macadamized; it's food for the spirit [soft music] to just give the old railroad Jim Crow the laugh.
[soft music continues] 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.
[low music and singing] 'Where,' it asks us, 'will you stay tonight?'
[low music and singing continues] An innocent enough question; to our Nordic friends, of no consequence.
But to you and me, what a peace-destroying world of potentiality."
[low music and singing continues] Alfred Edgar Smith 1933.
[low music and singing continues] [upbeat music] - Mobility is essential to freedom.
I think the automobile is emblematic of the importance and the value of mobility in a free society.
But, it also goes beyond mobility and it allows us to understand the way that African Americans have moved forward in this country and the way that African Americans have been pushed back.
[siren] - [Officer] Could I uh see some ID please, sir?
- [Driver] For what?
- [Officer] I need to see your driver's license and registration.
- [Driver] For what?
- Let me start out by saying: driving while Black was always unsafe.
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 understand 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 Black 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 tough for the majority of Americans to begin to even understand the gut wrenching horror that is driving in a racist society.
[music] - Well you know Driving While Black is a very interesting concept and it entails so much more than the actual driving while Black.
It's living while Black.
sleeping while Black.
Eating while Black.
Moving while Black.
And so when we start talking about the brutal restrictions on black movement in this country, well that's a long history.
That goes all the way back to day one.
You have to get to the root of it.
You know, where's the root of it?
[drums beating] - 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 mobility 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, [tense music] think about the trauma and the terror and the violence of that form of forced mobility.
[tense music continues] - If you just go back to those roots - back to the era of slavery - a chance to move around was very much regulated and controlled 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 bodies, 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.
- [Fountain] We were slaves.
We belonged to people.
[music, strings strumming] 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 pass to go from one plantation to another.
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.
[blues music] ♪ get ready ♪ ♪ You gotta move ♪ - 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.
[blues music continues] - One of the things that I think is so interesting is how policing developed in the south.
Policing starts with slave catchers.
These are men who are part of the community who go around at night to make sure that enslaved people are not leaving their plantations, but they're also there to terrorize and to intimidate.
[blues music continues] - The slave patrols of the old south 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 borders that they're not intended to cross.
♪ You got to move ♪ 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 century, 19th century New York went to, in fact, great lengths to police the movement of black people.
♪ You got to move ♪ - [Narrator] "I am unable to travel in any part of this country without calling forth illustrations of the dark spirit of slavery at every step."
Frederick Douglass, 1852.
[blues continues] - [Gretchen] 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 neighborhood or perhaps working their way to Canada.
[blues continues] - 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 Americans on the Underground Railroad, because the law of the land was that a slave had to be returned to their master.
- [Billy] 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 in.
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 states and keep them from leaving the Union.
But instead of appeasing the southern states, it really demonstrated to many people in the North, how they were complicit in slavery.
They watched, as African Americans were dragged from homes, were put into jails, they were being taken back into slavery.
They saw the suffering of these people.
The Fugitive Slave Act really lit the fuse that brought about the Civil War.
[music] 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 decide, what are we going to do with all of these people?
And so they give them work behind Union lines [music continues] and it's really the beginning of Emancipation.
And that shows how important mobility really was for these people.
Finally in 1863, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
We think that immediately everyone was free.
And that wasn't the case.
[emotional music] - [Fountain] 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 out.
Well, we been slaves all our lives.
My mother was a slave, my sisters was slaves, father was a slave.
Well after freedom, you know, colored people didn't have nothing.
- 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.
[soft music] And one of the things we found is that there's a lot of movement among African Americans during this period: searches for family members who were lost, that you're trying to reconnect to; a decision just to leave the plantation on which you lived for so many years; and to have the choice to do what you want to do, and to move where you want to go.
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 opportunity for the rebirth of the democracy.
And it was an extremely hopefully time; the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments 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.
- [Narrator] "It was the Golden Dawn, after chains of a thousand years, 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 could stand up and assert themselves.
They need not fear the patrol; they need not even cringe before a white face and touch their hats."
- The Civil War doesn't accomplish freedom for Africann Americans in a fell swoop overnight.
Whites are contesting every degree of freedom that African Americans are asserting in the aftermath of Emancipation 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 Americans 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 worked.
- There was continuous pushback against African American freedom but it got much worse.
Whites in the South were very clear that they were not going to permit Black people to have an equal stake in the society.
And they reasserted their white supremacy.
And by 1877, Reconstruction was over.
Many of the positive changes that were made are rolled back.
and they, re-institute a different 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 economy 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.
- [Gretchen] Cotton and tobacco are still the major crops in the South, and they have to be harvested and they have to be planted and tilled, and African Americans are still doing that work for very, very low wages, which is the sharecropping system.
- It was often a cycle of indebtedness, 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 place, and allowed white planters to continue to exploit their labor.
- And very quickly that sense of mobility, that chance to make your own decisions, begins to be constricted and controlled.
- And land isn't just about land.
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 right or it's never been everybody's right.
- It was important to owners to keep these people on the land.
- 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 particular.
Train stations were policed places.
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.
- [Eric] You had to follow all these rules.
And if you failed to obey the rules, 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 terrorism 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 control, but now, they're extra-legal and they're using terror.
[emotional music] - Well I think the most powerful instrument to restrict the mobility of African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War 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.
♪ Weel about and turn about and do jis so ♪ ♪ Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."
♪ - Jim Crow, first of all, is a nickname.
Because Jim Crow was a character in the earliest minstrel shows, always played by a white man in blackface.
[whimsical music] So Jim Crow was the nickname that people gave to all of these laws, and all of these customs, that governed how people interacted.
Both publicly and privately.
Jim Crow wasn't completely rigid.
But what it did say was that in all kinds of environments, that white people were in one group, 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 purpose, 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.
- [Allyson] African Americans were really met with tremendous resistance about where they would sit on trains.
They had to sit in what was known as the Jim Crow car.
[sad music] - 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.
- [Spencer] Either you traveled with the windows pulled down tightly, or, if you opened it, the whole car was filled with soot.
- African Americans, regardless of their class status, regardless of their educational level, 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 enjoy it 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.
[sad emotional music] - 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 that allows you to say: 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 white.
And that is the line.
- Segregation was incredibly painful.
It wasn't just about not being able to use certain public accommodations, but it was also about deference.
It was about saying: "You are not worthy.
[emotional music] You are less than other people.
You are inferior."
It had a powerful effect on adults 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, themselves.
The sense of bodily insecurity that you, as an African American, have in large parts of the American landscape.
That you might be at threat because of what you look like at any given moment.
[emotional music continues] - [Narrator] "A white man came up beside me in plain clothes with a great big pistol on his hip.
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 down on a live nigger in this town.'"
Thurgood Marshall, 1938.
- [Crosby] They used to treat colored people terribly bad in Mississippi and Alabama.
You know, they used to practically 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.
[gloomy music] - [Walter] 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 background 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.
[soft music] People would pack as much as they could into boxes, into suitcases, and whatever they could and get on that transportation and leave.
- [Fath] Particularly, as a sharecropper 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 Migration is about is getting away.
[soft brooding music] - 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 segregation, they are fleeing terrorism, and lynching, and they are fleeing economic inequality.
- [Male Narrator] "I pick up my life and take it with me.
"And I put it down in Chicago, [uplifting music] "Detroit, "Buffalo, "Scranton.
"I pick up my life and take it on the train "to Los Angeles, "Bakersfield, "Seattle, "Oakland, "Salt Lake.
"Any place that is North and West "and not South."
Langston Hughes, 1949 - [Alvin] 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 jobs, where they could make much better money than they could in the South.
[music] - [Male Narrator] "With ever watchful eyes "and bearing scars, visible and invisible, "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 Detroit.
Before The Great Migration, around three to four percent of the population was African American.
After The Great Migration, over 40% was African American.
[slow music] - Some people didn't have any idea where Detroit was.
I mean, some of the letters that was coming from some of the people, they couldn't even spell Detroit.
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 weevil, 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."
[music continues] 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.
[rock and roll/blues music] - [Gretchen] Looking back, Jim Crow laws really came to a legal climax in 1896, when the Supreme Court made separation 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 industry.
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 himself, a highly prejudiced man, deeply anti-Semitic.
So it's a good way of understanding that people are very complex.
- Most Black workers were stuck in the most unpleasant, most dangerous jobs in the auto industry.
One was working in the foundries, which were these huge furnaces, where steel was forged.
Hot, unpleasant, and dangerous.
[music continues] Second, was African American workers were often involved in lifting engines.
It was sometimes called man-killing, 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 industry.
- 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.
- [Allyson] 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 life that had previously been unattainable for many African Americans.
- [Kathleen] 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 1913, 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 effect.
By 1925, people start to buy used cars, and that becomes a new market as well.
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 South, could have gotten in an automobile and driven away.
- [Thomas] If you're an African American and you can afford a car, even if it's a used car, it provides a powerful alternative to the daily indignities of riding the rails, of riding a streetcar, of riding a bus.
- [Allyson] What happens is African Americans see purchasing cars or driving in cars as a way of getting out of the segregated, dehumanizing, humiliating experiences of train travel.
And so there's a real sense of relief, and a sense of pride, and a sense of freedom, a kind of final attainment of freedom 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 people with all their belongings packed on the car and they're leaving.
They're getting out.
The car gives you this personal freedom, but you're still African American in a society based on white supremacy.
- 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 Canyon, 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.
[whimsical music] ♪ See the USA ♪ ♪ In your Chevrolet ♪ ♪ America is asking you to call ♪ Think about all of those commercials.
♪ See the USA in your Chevrolet ♪ All of those commercials.
Did you see black people in those commercials?
- [Male Narrator] 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're going is most important of all.
- They never really thought about black people driving the road.
And when they did, it was always a curiosity.
- [Male Narrator] 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 Americans who have moved to the North are now driving back to the South to visit relatives 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 visiting, 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's food 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.
[gentle music] ♪ Swing low, sweet Cadillac ♪ ♪ Coming for to carry me home ♪ ♪ Swing low, sweet Cadillac ♪ ♪ Coming for to carry me home ♪ - 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 through.
You had made it.
- A car is consistently a status symbol.
What you drive reflects who you are.
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 are.
[bright music] - [Fath] 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.
[jazz music] In film, in songs, in poems, in stories, cars represent the open road, the ability to leave, the ability to control your own destiny.
[upbeat jazz music continues] - There is a long standing infatuation with the road in American culture.
The road symbolizes freedom, opportunity, discovery.
And that's a big part of American cultural history, but it leaves out other perspectives of other communities.
- [Gretchen] Geographically, we were completely separated into spaces that were divided by race.
So black people didn't venture into white spaces, white people generally didn't venture into black spaces.
But the automobile changes that, right?
Highways intersect all of these spaces, 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 another.
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 heavily 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 somewhere.
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 imagine what it must have been like with a car full of your family, whom you love, and the kids are crying and saying 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 situation.
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 develop this instinct he calls travel-craft, and that is an ability to figure out where they're comfortable, where they're allowed and where if they go their things 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 one of those big green Coleman coolers, those big, heavy metal coolers and it would be full of fried chicken and potato salad and you would always carry everything that you needed.
And it never dawned on me at the time why that was.
I guess I thought it was peculiar that we always had all the blankets and all the pillows in the car, but we never stopped.
- [Nancelia] 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.
- [Walter] 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.
[laughter] That was the condition.
- [Herb] 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.
[tense music] - 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 that were upsetting and humiliating.
And so, it was better not to stop.
- [Vernell] 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 anyway.
- I got up to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
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.
'Cause they still had the signs up.
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 and came around to play the jukebox.
And I never will forget this.
He played the song, "Don't You Be Here When The Morning Come."
[laughters] 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 street, you had to go in and out of sundown towns.
There were so many things that you couldn't possibly prepare for.
- [Female Narrator] "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 Blacks "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."
- So the car sort of at all points 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 enough 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.
[soft music] - [Gretchen] 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 car, 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 mob.
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 ventured 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 network 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.
- [Jennifer] 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.
- [Gretchen] 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.
- [Male Narrator] "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 traveler.
"You literally didn't dare leave home without it."
[jazz music] Earl Hutchinson Senior.
- [Gretchen] 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 state, of tourist homes and guesthouses, hotels and motels, restaurants, nightclubs, even beauty parlors and barbershops that African Americans could use as they traveled throughout the country.
- [Alvin] 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 having 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 power.
He found a white publisher.
- The name of the company was Gibraltar Printing and Publishing.
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 number because there was enough options.
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 distinguished.
- 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 publisher."
There's a certain kind of person that does that.
- [Howard] 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 book.
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.
- [Candacy] 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's job as a representative of Esso was to capitalize on this black market, but also to give black businesses opportunities to be connected to Esso, it was again a symbiotic relationship, 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 ran their 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 customers, the Green Book was at nearly every Esso gas station.
So that was another distribution model 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.
- [Herb] 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.
- [Jennifer] Guidebooks like this act as a sort of transect through the American experience.
So it's almost like cutting a section that cuts through tourism, the civil rights movement, education, professional advancement, almost every kind of important thing that was changing in the 1950's and 60's is touched in some way by these guides.
[soft music] - 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 encounter, where your racism is challenged.
And so travel allows that to happen.
- [Gretchen] Victor Green's mantra was an effort to convince white people in this country that Black people were just like you.
- The Green Book actually does something 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 genius, of the brilliance of black entrepreneurs, 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 segregation.
- [Candacy] 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 itself was a travel guide, but was also more of a testimony to Black entrepreneurship, really.
I mean, to me, that's really what it is.
- [Gretchen] And so you have this parallel world that African Americans have constructed that enabled them to move forward, to continue moving forward.
- [Valerie] 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 Thermidor, Of course, everything is homemade.
She could just do it all.
[soft music] - [Alvin] The women were truly entrepreneurial.
Think, in all these small towns, where people needed a place to stay, 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.
[soft music continues] - Black people in these spaces had dreams and they were fully aware of those dreams, and they're still having a good time, even though they're living in a world 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 [chuckle] 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 jumping.
- 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 know, and then joined them.
[light jazz music] - Idlewild is another brilliant example, What an amazing space.
It's like around this lake, houses, beautiful, they were horseback riding, playing outside.
It was known as the Chitlin Circuit.
Famous Black singers would come through.
So they're partying, they're having a great time.
- I also think that we need to tell the story about Jim Crow America less around what was denied and more around, these folks didn't take that and go, "This was what was denied to us."
they said, "Here's a niche opportunity.
We are going to take advantage of those opportunities and build institutions, build businesses, build churches."
Somebody's got to do that work.
Here are the folks that saw an opportunity for that work to be done, and took advantage of it.
[lively jazz music] - His vision for Lincoln Hills was for Winks to be a country club for black people.
That was his vision.
And he built that lodge up there and cabins around for people to rent.
And there were people from all over, It was like a resort.
- Well, for me, I think it's the same significance that my great-grandfather felt.
It's a part of the American dream.
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 KKK that were in either government or police departments, but Lincoln Hills was a safe haven for my great-grandfather, grandparents, the grandchildren like me.
[lively jazz music continues] - 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 o'clock in the morning, up until sunrise.
- 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 jeans-and-tennis-shoe kinda place.
When there was a show going on, people dressed.
This place really, as far as the history 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 stars 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 opportunities, it was this kind of wide-open space and I think that signified also as far as you could dream, it just expanded your horizons.
- So by the turn of the 20th century, 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 here.
With the caveat that they were also escaping the worst of Jim Crow discrimination and racial harassment and violence.
- 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 Newburg, and cream sauces.
They said: "Oh this girl gonna ruin your business."
It wasn't that I'm never satisfied, it's because I think as long as you living you gotta keep trying to move up.
- My grandparents started this restaurant, because they were a people who enjoyed community.
People came here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and many, many other things.
So when you came here, you came into their home.
[upbeat music] This place means not only a lot to me, but a lot to many people in the community because it was one of the few places that African Americans could go.
[upbeat music] - I fed everybody.
from James Baldwin, Thurgood Marshall, 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 here in this restaurant.
This was the only restaurant where people of color could come and sit down and have a drink, have a sandwich, You were not gonna have any trouble.
This was a safe haven for all of us.
Once they were inside this building, nobody was gonna worry them.
- At Saint Charles Missouri, the first tons of earth were moved to make way for tomorrow.
A tomorrow which will look like this, across the length and breadth of America, this will be the look of the future.
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 light.
- In the 1950s, our government made the decision that we were going to be a nation of drivers.
- The introduction of the automobile and the interstate highway system, I think, radically changed people's notion of time and space.
[music] - [Narrator] 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 celebrate the completion of local sections of the national system of interstate and defense highways.
- Kind of like the railroad in the 19th century helped to facilitate not just the experience but also the idea of a unified nation, a continent.
I think the automobile accelerated those experiences.
- There's a very complicated history 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 traveling on country roads and back roads where there was quite a bit of fear 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 consensus.
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 left 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 state will pass near Hilldale.
Well ladies and gentlemen, I think the most important question is not where the automobiles come from but how they're going to get where they're trying to go.
- If you travel along, particularly, south Claiborne Avenue, you'll see some very old, live oak trees.
Which, was emblematic of New Orleans.
[jazz music] The point is, that is one of the things that was destroyed by this overpass.
And so the expressway, was destroying this black community as a stake through the heart of the Faubourg Treme, also is expressive 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 decimated African American neighborhoods in cities throughout the nation.
Under the Interstate Highway Act, highway construction was coordinated with another federal program, of slum clearance.
- 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 communities that were vibrant.
That people were living in.
That the United States government destroyed through a combination of active funding of detrimental projects, and a kind of benign neglect.
- They created this very rigid method 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 living in that neighborhood, that neighborhood was immediately designated as a risk and it was coded in the color red.
And that's where we get the term redlining from.
Highway construction impacted Black communities or other non white communities, because that's where property values were the lowest.
There is a certain kind of cost effective 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 interconnected.
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 involved 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 allowed into the process, so they just came through there with that thing, took away houses; took away good businesses, good people.
- And to watch neighborhoods being absolutely devastated, torn apart, demolished.
Here comes these freeways.
Here comes these here easy passages out of the city or coming into the city.
That meant neighborhoods were destroyed.
- I can see it in Newark, New Jersey, and when my daughter was young, I wanted to take her and show her 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 highways, 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 almost every major city in America, and it was really a huge economic setback for many African American businesses because they became isolated.
[music] - 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 buildings, sometimes they are abandoned, sort of, empty fields.
[music] I think the scars on the landscape are very telling.
There's so many Green Book sites, 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 down.
- It's gone.
So the biggest, most important piece of physical evidence that we have of our racial landscape is missing one half of it.
So to me, that's a huge reason why it's become easy to not know this history anymore.
[music] - When you erase a history, you erase an identity.
You erase what's important to people and how they connect with their community 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 through.
But part of what comes with the overpass, is a culture of modernity that suggests 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 there.
And so, of course, I'm torn.
To have him memorialized in that way, means a lot to me, but of course the great fault of these highways was the extent to which they thought that this concrete could create a new culture.
And these things, while they ultimately destroyed a great bit of what I knew of and what I know of is the meaning of American life and culture.
We're still able to maintain a sense of ourselves and we're still able to speak about the necessity of taking down some of these things to get back to a truer expression of who we are.
[music] - It's not easy to feel optimistic about the modern world in that kind of chaotic environment.
Your physical body surrounded by these massive layers of concrete with these machines moving at 80 miles an hour next to you, above you, below you.
And to see that kind of cultural vitality in the most unexpected place of a highway interchange, or beneath a highway interchange.
To me, gives me hope.
It reminds me that people are not going to lay down and die.
They're not going to let themselves be paved over by the highway and their automobile.
They will insist that their voices are heard and seen.
They can draw creative inspiration from the most dismal aspects of modern urban life.
I don't mean to sound Pollyannaish, but I do think that there is a kind 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 feature, 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 far-flung places to get together and to travel.
To get to a destination where there is a protest or a voter registration campaign going on.
A lot of smaller places, especially 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 town 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 Bus Boycott 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 deploy their resources to sustain this boycott over months and months and months.
And it meant, in fact, accessing cars.
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 thinking about how Black people deployed the automobile to challenge Jim Crow.
- It's really the car and the coordination of carpools that allowed for the Montgomery Bus Boycott to be the success, the dramatic success that it becomes.
- [Narrator] 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 since the slaves were freed a century ago.
- 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 beaches that are segregated, that are serving a black clientele, but you don't have white people deciding that they're going to use these businesses once segregation is gone.
[soft music] - When The Green Book first started, yes, it gave you the safe havens.
But that drive between the safe havens, full of risk and uncertainty.
With the passing of the Civil Rights Act and then the gradual implementation of the provisions of it, the drive between the safe havens became safer.
[soft music continues] Victor Green himself said he wanted there to be a day when there would be no need for the Green Book.
So he imagined his own obsolescence.
And gradually he was right.
People stopped staying at the guesthouses.
They stopped stopping at only these restaurants.
- There are dozens of these African American travel guides.
The Green Book is just the most long-lasting.
And all of them say: "Someday this won't be necessary.
We know that the day is coming when this won't be necessary."
[soft music] - What The Green Book teaches us, it's great to think of it as something 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 Black businesses 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 yourself.
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 community -- and one person stopped and asked me, say: "Well, who owned the store on so-and-so corner?"
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 businesses was black-owned you know, [chuckle] that we could take pride in.
And I look around now, there's less and less black businesses.
- Culture is lost.
History is lost.
So many of the places that are listed in these travel guides, the only thing we know about them is the address.
We have very, very little evidence, material evidence of most of these places.
And I think many African American people didn't think that their heritage, 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.
[traffic noise] [car door slam] - 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 society.
- 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.
- [Narrator] 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."
- [Man] 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 stops, police traffic stops.
- But what exactly is racial profiling?
Drivers all over the country have said, they have been targeted by police.
They call it "Driving While Black."
And Dozens of law enforcement agencies 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.
[music] - 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.
[soft music] - 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 violence, even if they would never dream of committing it themselves.
And so what we see in everyday activities like driving a car and the police pulling folks over, is a combination of official violence, 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 same.
- The numbers never lie, this is certainly proof positive, that there is something grossly wrong with the State police.
- Our police are here to protect us.
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 that connects really strongly to the present political moment in terms of African American safety on the road, and the encounters that we see with, with law enforcement right now.
This is, there's a direct line there.
- [Police] Get out of the car!
- [Woman] I'm getting out, let me get out, do not touch me, do not touch me.
- [Police] Get out of the car now.
- [woman] 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 from.
It begins to give us some indication 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.
- [Police] I'm going to yank you out of here.
- [Woman] Okay you gonna yank me out my car?
- Because the indignities are still there.
- [Woman] Don't touch me.
- [Police] Get out of the car!
Now, get out of the car!
- What I think is a little different about the present, - [Woman] For a failure to signal, you're doing all of this for a failure to signal.
Right, yeah let's take this to court.
- Is that people's cell phones and other recording devices have made something that African Americans always knew was going on visible.
- We in the backseat of the police car.
- These incidents are not new.
What is new is the perception, the understanding of other people, who are not African American, how deadly this could really be.
There's something similar, actually, 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.
[music] - [Man] 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 rights, and I can still be taken advantage of?
Any young man or woman can have the exact same thing done.
- Every time we're driving, my hands immediately start shaking 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.
- [Woman voice] 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.
- [Man voice] 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.
[music] - I think in every black family, there are these ways in which information 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 son, what it meant to be male and Black in the United States.
[music] 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 Black, walking across the street while Black, 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's the presence of the black body, whether that body's in movement or sedentary is one that is considered a threat 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.
- [Police] Could I see some ID please sir?
- [Driver] For what, for what?
- [Police] I need to see your driver's license and registration.
- [Driver] For what?
- [Police] Step out of the car.
[music] [rap music] Stop!
- [Driver] What he doing?
What the police doing, what the police doing?
- [Woman passenger] Oh my God.
- [Police] Please step out the [ ] car.
Get out the [ ] car right now.
Get out the [ ] car.
Yes, get out now.
Get out the [ ] car.
- [Woman voice] I can't put my hands up, I have a [ ] baby in my hands.
- [Police] When I tell you to do something you [ ] do it.
- [Woman voice] I can't put my hands up, I have a [ ] baby in my arms.
[screaming] - [Man voice] Hey!
That's how y'all treat black people, huh?
♪ Don't look good if you look like me ♪ ♪ Like me, like me ♪ ♪ Don't look good if you look like me ♪ - I was taught, many years ago, that if the police stop you, put your hands on the steering wheel.
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 white violence 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 conversation that you're having with a black child about the dangers of negotiating, of moving through this society, confess the powerlessness of the parents to actually protect their children.
- 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, you don't make any sudden moves."
- 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 direction... 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 grandchildren who are ages six and four, and I think about whether or not things have changed dramatically.
And sometimes I think they have, and sometimes I realize that it's one step forward, two steps back.
Perhaps this is the moment when white people are as concerned as black people about what's going on with race relations in this country.
- I'm a father, my son's 17, 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, - [Police] 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?
- [Police] 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? "
[soft music] 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 afraid.
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 society?
[soft music] Those are real questions, those are real questions.
[screaming] [several gunshots] [screaming] - [Man voice] Why the [ ] y'all just shoot him?
[siren] 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 like every single one of y'all.
And everyone around us, we're human.
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 family.
And I shed tears for every single one of these people that it's happened to.
This is nothing new, I'm not sad, I'm not sorry, I'm angry and I'm tired.
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 pity, I want change.
[tense music] [James Baldwin] 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 life, since everyone around him denied it.
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 otherwise.
If we and now by that I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create the consciousness of others.
do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country and change the history of the world.
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time.
1963 ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Mmm, Yeah ♪ ♪ Oh oh oh ♪ ♪ If it ain't the virus then its violence ♪ ♪ Too much silence in the air ♪ ♪ Our people scared, feels like nobody cares ♪ ♪ If you wanna close the distance ♪ ♪ And you're white then it's all fine ♪ If you're not, you crossed a line ♪ We shouldn't dare and it's not fair ♪ ♪ We shouldn't have to worry when we go outside the house ♪ ♪ Built this country on our backs ♪ ♪ They just keep breaking us down ♪ ♪ It's 2020, what the hell is that about?
♪ ♪ I'm trynna figure out ♪ ♪ How is the land of the free and the home of the brave ♪ ♪ Built off the backs of the slaves?
♪ ♪ Black man shot every couple of days ♪ ♪ They see you run and put you in a grave ♪ ♪ People dying, mommas crying ♪ ♪ It's no longer underlying ♪ ♪ And to keep on justifying ♪ ♪ So we gotta keep on trying ♪