History Book Festival to host online talk with Gretchen Sorin Aug. 6

July 29, 2020

Author Gretchen Sorin will join a live online discussion of her new book, “Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights,” presented by the History Book Festival, at 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 6.

The liberating nature of automobiles has long been romanticized in song, film and literature, but that narrative has largely been owned by white Americans. For the average black American, restriction of movement – a holdover from slavery – lingered long into the 20th century and shaped the way African Americans navigated behind the wheel.

Long car rides and vacations required careful preparation, early morning departures and infrequent pit stops. In grassroots fashion, most famously with the Green Book guidebooks, a new industry sprang up, a world of black-only B&Bs, hotels and restaurants that played a vital role in the civil rights movement by feeding and housing activists who traveled south to protest.

Sorin is distinguished professor and director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program at the State University of New York.

“Driving While Black” contains personal remembrances of her family’s carefully planned road trips from New Jersey to North Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s. Sorin and her brother were unaware of the pains their parents took to ensure the trips were without peril, in a time when many Southern towns boasted of a lack of racial diversity and flaunted their connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

This Zoom event is free but registration is required. For more information and to register, go to and click on 2020 Events.

The 2020 Virtual History Book Festival is presented in cooperation with the Lewes Public Library and sponsored by Delaware Humanities and the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group.

Copies of “Driving While Black” with signed archival bookplates are available from the festival’s official bookseller, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, as well as at biblion in Lewes. The festival encourages readers to support local independent bookstores. Copies also may be borrowed from the Lewes Public Library. To arrange curbside pickup at the library, call 302-645-2733 or email

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter