From slave ships to the space race, we recommend a few of the many recent works that shine a light on previously overlooked Black history.
READ: Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights
Gretchen Sorin, director and distinguished professor for the Cooperstown Graduate Program at State University of New York at Oneonta, explores how the automobile granted Black Americans a freedom of mobility previously denied them. Sorin details the barriers that kept African Americans from traveling throughout much of U.S. history, such as Jim Crow laws that dictated their use of public transportation. The book highlights how the privacy and safety of the automobile allowed Black families to travel in relative peace — though segregation and White supremacy meant there were still plenty of dangers along the way. A documentary based on Sorin’s work, also titled Driving While Black, is set to air on PBS later this year. Available March 10
WATCH: Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier
This new Smithsonian Channel documentary invites viewers to enter a time “when the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race collided.” The film tells the story of Ed Dwight, who became the first African American astronaut trainee in 1962 as an attempt by the Kennedy administration to improve America’s reputation abroad. Upon the president’s assassination, the plan was scrapped, and it would be another 20 years before the U.S. finally had a Black astronaut. Black in Space explores why it took so long to make this happen. Stream for free on thesmithsonianchannel.com or check local listings
LISTEN: 1619 podcast
1619 is an audio series produced as part of The New York Times 1619 Project, an in-depth examination of American slavery released on the 400th anniversary of the landing of the nation’s first slave ship. Over the span of six episodes, host Nikole Hannah-Jones traces the history of slavery and its aftermath on multiple aspects of American life, from the economy and agriculture to music and modern health care. The 1619 Project is not without controversy, as some historians have criticized portions of its written materials as inaccurate and overly cynical. Yet Hannah-Jones’ take on how slavery’s legacy continues to harm Black families, including her own, offers listeners an intimate journey across 400 years of pain. Listen for free at nytimes.com/1619podcast or via major podcast apps
This article was published in the April 2020 issue.