Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History

Stanley B. Burns, MD & Elizabeth A. Burns

Picturing Freedom chronicles and celebrates the photographic history of African Americans and their cars by focusing on personal images of the pride and joy of car ownership. Owning a car was a significant life-changing achievement. It offered special freedoms—freedom to travel, freedom to work further from home, freedom to visit family and friends, freedom to avoid Jim Crow laws, and freedom to migrate.

The car was unequivocal evidence of Black success and an important symbol of status in a country that had long fought their advancement in every area. Car ownership was purposely and proudly photographed.

All of the photographs were taken in Black communities by a family member or a friend and reveal how African Americans represented themselves. Histories of photography, car freedoms, and travel, as well as contributions from legendary photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. and public health advocate Gerald Deas, MD, are included. This compilation of over 450 unique photographs is an inspiring visual narrative.

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