American Bar Association Recognizes Dr. Gretchen Sorin and CGP

Gretchen Sorin
Gretchen Sorin | Historian, Author of Driving While Black
Gretchen Sorin HS

Distinguished Service Professor Gretchen Sorin ’75 and The Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP) were recently recognized with an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for producing the documentary “Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America” alongside renowned filmmaker Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films.

Driving While Black PBS Logo

The Silver Gavel Award recognizes work in media and arts that is exemplary in helping foster the American public’s understanding of the law and legal system. “Driving While Black” was specifically praised for connecting America’s past of slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, “sundown laws,” redlining and the Civil Rights Movement to the current racial reckoning happening in the United States. 

Dr. Sorin and Burns accepted the award in a virtual ceremony. “I was so excited to see that the American Bar Association recognized what this story was about," Dr. Sorin said. "This film couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time, and I hope that it moves people so that they want to work in their own communities to bring about police reform.” 

Students in the Cooperstown Graduate Program assisted Dr. Sorin with research to help bring the project to completion. “Emily Pfeil, one of my students, did her summer internship with Steeplechase Films,” said Dr. Sorin. “She was fascinated with documentary film and after she graduated, she was hired as an assistant producer.”

Driving While Black Book Cover

Pfeil has been working for Ric Burns’ film company for several years now. “Emily was able to turn a hands-on learning opportunity into a career,” Dr. Sorin said.

Support for the film came from PBS, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the 1772 Foundation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Artemis Rising Foundation. 

“Driving While Black” was based on Dr. Sorin’s book under the same name, which earned her recognition as a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in literary excellence in non-fiction.
To watch the full ceremony online, visit

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