IN HIS new Apple Podcast launching today, award-winning BBC broadcaster, journalist and teacher Alvin Hall hits the road alongside activist and former attorney Janée Woods Weber.
Driving from Detroit to New Orleans, Hall and Weber collect powerful, personal testimony about how black Americans used the historic travel guide The Negro Motorist’s Green Book during the height of segregation as a vital resource to quell fears, find safe havens, and travel with dignity.
Every person Hall interviews talks about the connections between that fraught period of US history and today’s struggle for racial justice.
As he drives the Green Book, Alvin unearths both inspiring and heartbreaking tales that tell a different story from what Hollywood would have you believe.
Hall interviewed over 40 people, but only 31 are featured in the podcast series.
They include former Motown musicians, local activists, politicians, professors, historians, artists and more.
All of them generously shared their personal memories of living during segregation and Jim Crow in the US while also reflecting on the cultural and historical importance of the Negro Motorist Green Book, which was published from 1936-1967.
The guide helped African American travellers find safe havens and welcoming services during the long racially restrictive period in US history.
The narrative arc of each episode of the series involves a theme—for example, the Green Book, a city, a family, a collection of memories, the emotional legacy, etc.
Hall believes listeners will find the series enlightening, moving, heartbreaking at times, and always inspiring.
“The road trip was inspired by an infographic I saw at an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series” at MoMA,” Hall shares.
He added: “The illustration showed the percentage of the African American population in Detroit grew from 1.4 per cent in 1910 to 43.7 per cent in 1970—one of the largest increases of any city in US. So, African Americans who migrated to Detroit from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana would have driven part or all of this route (then on two-lane roads) for return visits to see relatives who stayed in the South.”
He continued: “It was impossible not to see the connection between the interviewee’s recollections and personal stories about traveling during the time the Green Book was published and widely reported horrific events that African Americans experience on the streets and highways across the US today.
“The question kept coming up in my mind: Why haven’t these things changed?
“Why can’t these things change? Where in the American psyche or soul is the resistance to such change?”
TAKE A LISTEN TO THE OFFICIAL TRAILER: