Gretchen Sorin '75 Named Finalist for NAACP Image Award

Driving While Black book cover, Gretchen Sorin '82 at laptop

SUNY Oneonta Distinguished Professor Gretchen Sullivan Sorin '75 is a finalist for a 2021 NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction for her book "Driving While Black" (W. W. Norton & Company). The 52nd NAACP Image Awards ceremony will air live on BET at 8 p.m. March 27.

“I am tremendously honored and very grateful that the NAACP Image Awards Committee recognized "Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights" as an outstanding literary work finalist,” said Sorin. “It is very exciting to have my book in such distinguished company. I hope that this book in some small way helps to shine a light on the origins of restricted mobility for Black Americans and their relationship with law enforcement and serves as a call to action that will help to end racial profiling.”

"Driving While Black," demonstrates that the car—the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility—has always held particular importance for African Americans, allowing Black families to evade the dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. Melding new archival research with her family’s story, Sorin recovers a lost history, demonstrating how, when combined with Black travel guides—including the famous Green Book—the automobile encouraged a new way of resisting oppression. Sorin collaborated with Emmy-winning director Ric Burns to bring her book to life in the form of a two-hour PBS documentary titled “Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America.”

And the Nominees Are...

Sorin is in good company as a finalist for a 2021 NAACP Image Award. This year’s nominees for the Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction category include:

  • "A Promised Land" by Barack Obama (Crown);
  • "A Black Women’s History of the United States" by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross (Beacon Press);
  • "Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America" by Michael Eric Dyson; and
  • "We’re Better Than This" by Elijah Cummings (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers).

Nominees were announced earlier this month. The NAACP’s Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction award has been given since 2007, and previous winners include Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Margaret Lee Shutterly, Bryan Stephenson and Barack Obama.

About Gretchen Sorin '75

Dr. Gretchen Sorin is a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and director of SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies. She has curated many exhibits—including with the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum and the New York State Historical Association.

About the NAACP Image Awards

Recognized as the nation’s preeminent multicultural awards show from an African American perspective, the NAACP Image Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts and those who promote social justice through their creative work. RSVP for special online access

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