Featured photo: Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. rode Ford’s Magic Skyway at the New York World’s Fair on a trip with his family in 1964. His wife and two other children followed in the next electronically controlled car.
Free museum admission (courtesy of Target), a symposium about the not-so-open road for African-American travelers before the Civil Rights Act, dramatic presentations, music performances, and make-and-take activities.
Now, that’s a great way to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Many folks have been sharing with us their car stories in anticipation of the January 29th opening of our new Driving America exhibition. Some stories reflect people’s affection for their autos as much as the freedom that came with having accessible transportation.
In Jim Crow America – in the North and South – African-American customers were routinely denied access to restaurants and hotels; racial segregation was frequent at beaches and amusement parks. Police officers regularly pulled over people for “driving while black.”
Above: The Negro Motorist Green Book, begun in 1936, became a guide for the African-American traveler. This 1949 edition listed travel information that would keep the traveler “from running into difficulties [and] embarrassments,” and would “make his trips more enjoyable.”
Monday’s free symposium – Driving While Black: The Struggle for Civil Rights on the Road – is presented by award-winning civil rights historian Thomas Sugrue. He tells the stories of the courageous civil rights activists who fought for the freedom to travel and for respect on the road. The symposium is in Anderson Theater in Henry Ford Museum from 10-11:30 a.m. and includes a question-and-answer session. From 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m., selected students from Henry Ford Academy will participate in a panel discussion facilitated by Professor Sugrue.
Sugrue is author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (Princeton University Press, 2010) and Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (Random House, 2008), a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His first book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis(Princeton University Press, 1996), won the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Philip Taft Prize in Labor History, the President’s Book Award of the Social Science History Association and the Urban History Association Award for Best Book in North American Urban History. It was also selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book, an American Prospect On-Line Top Shelf Book on Race and Inequality and a Lingua Franca Breakthrough Book on Race. (It has even been translated into Japanese.) In 2005, Princeton University Press selected The Origins of the Urban Crisis as one of its 100 most influential books of the past one hundred years and published a new edition of The Origins of the Urban Crisis as a Princeton Classic.
Sugrue is a specialist in 20th-century American politics, urban history, civil rights and race. He was educated at Columbia; King’s College, Cambridge; and Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1992. You can read more about him at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania website, where he’s David Boies Professor of History and Sociology.
Two of his books will be available for purchase and signing: The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit and SweetLand of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.
All events on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16) are free of charge and open to the public.