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The ability to move freely within society is a defining measurement of one's citizenship.

Black Mobility: Autonomy and the Automobile in Pittsburgh examines automobile ownership’s effect on Black lives during the first wave of the Great Migration (1916 to 1955) when two million African Americans left the South, seeking a better quality of life. The exhibition explores the strong Black communities thriving in Pittsburgh in this period, which attracted migrants from Alabama and Virginia. It will look at how neighborhoods like the Hill District expanded and changed with the influx of Southern Blacks and the role the automobile and transportation played in this change. Buying a car is one of the first steps many take as they transition into the middle class, but for Black car owners, this step was more than just a symbol of “making it.” Automobile ownership provided a real sense of freedom. It was freedom from the remembered restraints of slavery, freedom from timetables of trains and buses, and most importantly, freedom of unrestricted mobility, the ability to come and go as one pleases. 

Black Mobility will feature well-known marques such as Buick, Pontiac, and Cadillac, as well as period costumes and ephemera. The exhibition sections will explore Black life in Pittsburgh from 1916 to 1955. Examples of some areas include the economic opportunities in the booming steel industry, the music and cultural scene that made Pittsburgh a destination, not just a layover, between Harlem and Chicago; family vacations and travel; and transportation businesses created for serving Black communities.
Program Information

Black Mobility: Autonomy and the Automobile in Pittsburgh 1916-1955

Dates: May 23, 2023 - February 4, 2024
Location: Car and Carriage Museum
This exhibition is organized by The Frick Pittsburgh and curated by Kim Cady, Associate Curator, Car and Carriage Museum. 

Above & Exhibitions landing page: Three People and Their Car. Dolores Hobley Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC University Libraries.

It's free to visit The Frick Pittsburgh.