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American Ancestors Continues Its Popular, Free, Virtual American Inspiration Series

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On Tuesday, August 11, at 6:00 p.m., American Ancestors and NEHGS, in collaboration with the Boston Public Library (BPL) and Boston's Museum of African American History (MAAH), will present a virtual conversation between acclaimed historian and author Gretchen Sorin and Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture. Sorin's book, Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights is what a New York Times reviewer has categorized as a work documenting America's "Highway to Hell" and the magnitude of injustices and harrowing encounters endured by African Americans traveling here by open road.

Sorin will share how the automobile fundamentally changed African American life. Through much of our country's history, mobility has been limited for African Americans: first, by slavery; then, in the 20th century, by the racism of some whites who denied their black countrymen the right to travel freely on trains and buses. Driving While Black reveals how the car-the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility-allowed black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society. Interweaving stories of her own family history, Sorin opens up an entirely new view onto one of the most important issues of our time. Her book will soon be the basis of a major PBS documentary by Ric Burns.

Sorin is Director and Distinguished Professor of the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York. She has curated innumerable exhibits-including with the Smithsonian, the Jewish Museum, and the New York State Historical Association.

Guest Moderator Kinshasha Holman Conwill is Deputy Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture. Since 2005, she has engaged in fulfilling the museum's vision by expanding its collections, fostering external partnerships, and developing exhibits programming. She serves as lead editor for projects ranging from exhibition catalogs to books on the museum's collections, including Dream A World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of

Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she served as the Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem after joining the museum as Deputy Director. During her tenure, she conceptualized, organized and co-organized over forty exhibitions, and was a commissioner for an award-winning contemporary African art exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Conwill received the 2019 George Mason College of Visual Arts' Mason Arts Award, the 2019 Blue Flame Alumni Award from the Division of Fine Arts from Howard University, and the 2017 James A. Porter Colloquium's Humanitarian Award.

The hour-long virtual event will be produced live on the Zoom platform by the WGBH Forum Network and later published online for the enrichment of our community. Funding for the Forum Network is provided by the Lowell Institute.

Registration for this free event may be found at:

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