“There’s no way like the American Way” billboard - Photo credit: Margaret Bourke-White
Recorded Wednesday, July 23, 2023

The car has often been seen as a democratizer of spatial and social mobility in the United States. When the rates of car ownership rose among African Americans in the postwar years, the event was hailed as a further step toward their integration into the social fabric.

Join Andrea Vesentini, cultural historian residing in Venice, Italy as he discusses whether inclusion can really be provided by vehicles designed to privatize each driver’s movement across urban space? Was Jim Crow really subverted by private transportation, or was it exacerbated by a mode of circulation that did not disallow segregation, giving everyone a chance to be “separate but equal” on the open road? The presentation will seek an answer to such questions in a range of written and visual documents, from early accounts of ethnic tensions in public transit and the reception of automobility in the African-American press to Margaret Bourke-White’s celebrated 1937 photograph of the flooded Mississippi in Louisville.