Sarah A. Seo is a Professor at Columbia Law School and the author of Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed ­American Freedom. (July 2020)


Racism on the Road

New York State Police officers stopping a black family during the Rochester race riot, July 1964

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights

by Gretchen Sorin

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America

by Candacy Taylor
In 1963, after Sam Cooke was turned away from a hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana, because he was black, he wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come.” He was right. The next year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which dismantled a cornerstone of the racial caste system known as …


What Cars Can Teach Us About New Policing Technologies

A traffic stop in St. Louis, Missouri, July 25, 2017

The mass production of the automobile transformed twentieth-century America in unexpected and important ways. Foremost, and little-known, it revolutionized policing, spurring the development of police surveillance and increasing individual officers’ discretionary authority. Although this expansion of the state’s power didn’t begin with discriminatory motives, the history of policing drivers makes clear that law enforcement’s surveillance practices don’t invade people’s privacy equally, but have historically reinforced existing inequalities. This is important to remember as contemporary concerns in the face of new technologies abound.