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This article explores spatial mobility as a form of African American resistance and self-determination. We argue for examining the everyday activism and “countermobility work” of ordinary people of color as they move in ways that subvert, negotiate, and survive white supremacy. These ideas are developed through a historical case study not typically identified with the black civil rights struggle, specifically the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and the “hard driving” of Wendell Scott. The first and only African American driver to win at NASCAR’s top level, Scott raced throughout the segregated South and faced considerable discrimination in what was otherwise an all-white sport. We offer a critical (re)reading of Scott’s racing career as antiracism mobility work and focus on the bodily, social, and technological practices he employed to maintain and even enhance his mobility around tracks and to and from races. Scott did not represent his efforts in terms of civil rights activism, but it is important to contextualize black resistance outside the confines of formal protest to include the struggle for survivability and material reproduction. The work of racing and driving was part of Scott’s geographically situated political practice and important to the struggle to access and move about the sport of stock car track racing and hence the larger U.S. landscape of citizenship. Our discussion has implications for analyzing historic practices of resistance but also has currency for understanding how countermobility practices remain central to resisting continuing racial discrimination.
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Annals of the American Association of Geographers
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Mobility as Antiracism Work: The “Hard Driving” of
NASCAR's Wendell Scott
Derek H. Alderman & Joshua Inwood
To cite this article: Derek H. Alderman & Joshua Inwood (2016) Mobility as Antiracism
Work: The “Hard Driving” of NASCAR's Wendell Scott, Annals of the American Association of
Geographers, 106:3, 597-611, DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2015.1118339
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Published online: 09 Feb 2016.
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Mobility as Antiracism Work: The “Hard Driving”
of NASCAR’s Wendell Scott
Derek H. Alderman
and Joshua Inwood
Department of Geography, University of Tennessee
Department of Geography and Africana Studies Program, University of Tennessee
This article explores spatial mobility as a form of African American resistance and self-determination. We
argue for examining the everyday activism and “countermobility work” of ordinary people of color as they
move in ways that subvert, negotiate, and survive white supremacy. These ideas are developed through a histor-
ical case study not typically identified with the black civil rights struggle, specifically the National Association
for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and the “hard driving” of Wendell Scott. The first and only African
American driver to win at NASCAR’s top level, Scott raced throughout the segregated South and faced con-
siderable discrimination in what was otherwise an all-white sport. We offer a critical (re)reading of Scott’s rac-
ing career as antiracism mobility work and focus on the bodily, social, and technological practices he employed
to maintain and even enhance his mobility around tracks and to and from races. Scott did not represent his
efforts in terms of civil rights activism, but it is important to contextualize black resistance outside the confines
of formal protest to include the struggle for survivability and material reproduction. The work of racing and
driving was part of Scott’s geographically situated political practice and important to the struggle to access and
move about the sport of stock car track racing and hence the larger U.S. landscape of citizenship. Our discus-
sion has implications for analyzing historic practices of resistance but also has currency for understanding how
countermobility practices remain central to resisting continuing racial discrimination. Key Words: Antiracism,
Jim Crow, Mobility, Sport, Working class.
(Wendell Scott) 驾驶一一NASCAR
Este art
ıculo explora la movilidad espacial como una forma de resistencia y autodeterminacion afroamericana.
Abogamos por examinar el activismo cotidiano y el “trabajo de contra-movilidad” de la gente de color ordinaria
en cuanto se mueven de maneras que subvierten, concilian y sobreviven con la supremac
ıa blanca. Estas ideas
son desarrolladas por medio de un estudio de caso historico que no se identifica t
ıpicamente con la lucha negra
por los derechos civiles, espec
ıficamente relacionado con la Asociacion Nacional de Carreras de Autos de Serie
(NASCAR) y la “dura conduccion” de Wendell Scott. Scott, primer piloto de autos afroamericano en ganar en
el nivel mas alto de NASCAR, unico hasta ahora, compitio a traves de todo el Sur segregado y enfrento consid-
erable discriminacion en lo que por otra parte era un deporte totalmente de blancos. Ofrecemos una (re)lectura
ıtica de la carrera de Scott en las carreras de autos como trabajo de movilidad antirracista y nos enfocamos en
las practicas corporales, sociales y tecnologicas que utilizo para mantener e incluso mejorar su movilidad alrede-
dor de las pistas y dentro de las competencias. Scott no represento sus esfuerzos en terminos de activismo por
los derechos civiles, aunque es importante contextualizar la resistencia negra fuera de los confines de la protesta
formal para incluir la lucha por la sobrevivencia y la reproduccion material. El trabajo de competir y conducir
autos eran parte de la practica pol
ıtica de Scott situada geograficamente, importante en la brega por acceder y
moverse en torno del deporte de carreras de autos de serie en pista y, desde ah
ı, al mas amplio paisaje de la
Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 106(3) 2016, pp. 597–611 Ó2016 by American Association of Geographers
Initial submission, July 2015; revised submission, November 2015; final acceptance, November 2015
Published by Taylor & Francis, LLC.
Downloaded by [University of Tennessee, Knoxville] at 14:36 27 April 2016
ıa norteamericana. Nuestra discusion tiene implicaciones para analizar practicas historicas de resisten-
cia, pero tambien es efectiva para entender como las practicas de contra-movilidad siguen siendo centrales para
resistir la continuada discriminacion racial. Palabras clave: antirracismo, Jim Crow, movilidad, deporte, clase
This article highlights the importance of examin-
ing the racialized geography of spatial mobility
in the United States. While recognizing move-
ment as a means of racial control and exclusion, we
argue for exploring mobility as a form of African
American resistance and self-determination in the
face of rampant discrimination. These countermobil-
ities have received limited analytical attention from
geographers and there is a lacuna concerning the crea-
tive practices or “work” carried out by ordinary Afri-
can Americans in reconstructing the meaning and
material dimensions of movement as antiracist praxis.
We conceive this countermobility work broadly to
encompass the full range of bodily, social, and techno-
logical efforts required for working people to move in
ways that subvert and survive white supremacy. This
has implications for the way we understand historic
practices of resistance and holds contemporary intel-
lectual purchase as countermobility practices remain
central to resisting continuing racial discrimination
(Inwood, Alderman, and Williams 2015). Many of our
recent senseless deaths—from Trayvon Martin to San-
dra Bland—demonstrate how the policing of move-
ment remains intertwined with a political negotiation
of life and death for African Americans.
The idea of spatial mobility as antiracism work
allows us to fine-tune our understanding of the poli-
tics of movement, how mobility is “enacted and
experienced through the body” and the specific
ways movement is practiced and made meaningful
(Cresswell 2010, 20). Countermobility practices
take us closer to analyzing what McKittrick (2011)
called a “black sense of place” while also allowing
us to remember the civil rights movement as the
planned, resourceful labor of social actors and
groups rather than simply the inevitable product of
national progress or as a spontaneous, emotional
eruption (Alderman, Kingsbury, and Dwyer 2013).
This understanding connects to a burgeoning criti-
cal race theory literature that argues for a need to
capture the everyday ways in which working men
and women resisted systems of oppression (Kelley
1996). Focusing on these transgressive movements
fashioned by working people, who are often left out
of mainstream, elite-centric accounts of the civil
rights struggle, illuminates deeper and sometimes
counterintuitive understandings of the role of activ-
ism and resistance in the struggle for racial equality.
The inherent tensions between oppressive and resis-
tant geographic mobilities and the creative counter-
mobility work practiced by African Americans are
found across many social and historical settings. Our
attention turns to a historical case study not typically
identified with the black civil rights struggle. We
explore professional stock car racing, specifically the
U.S.-based National Association for Stock Car Auto
Racing (NASCAR) and the antiracist mobility work
and struggles of Wendell Scott (1921–1990) of
Danville, Virginia. Scott was the first and only African
American driver to win a race at the top level of NAS-
CAR. Mobilities associated with organized racing are
not confined to participants traveling to and from a
sporting event, but also include movement on the
actual track or road course (Cidell 2014)—both of
which are structured by racial power relations. This
was certainly the case for Scott, who raced throughout
the segregated Jim Crow South, amid the tense days of
the civil rights movement and in what was otherwise
an all-white sport. He faced discrimination, humilia-
tion, and violence on and off the track. “For Wendell
Scott, every race was a struggle and every struggle was
about race” (Karpf 2008, np).
Sports cultures are deeply involved in reinforcing
but also challenging racialized identities and inequal-
ities (Hartmann 2012; Harrison 2013). Racism in
motorsports has received limited attention from criti-
cal race theorists or mobility scholars, and the public
knows little of the history of African Americans chal-
lenging white supremacy in auto racing (Miller and
Simon 2010). Wendell Scott is a noteworthy excep-
tion to this forgetting of black racers, in part due to
the 1977 film Greased Lightning, the penetrating bio-
graphical work of journalist Brian Donovan (2008),
and Scott’s induction into various racing halls of fame.
Yet, Scott’s story has been narrated in ways that do
not capture the political importance of his driving.
The prevailing narrative stresses that the driver
“persevered” over white supremacy (rather than
actively resisting it), thus limiting our understanding
of exactly how working African Americans such as
Scott redefined the conditions of their immobility
and created countermobility (e.g., Bruce 2014). As
598 Alderman and Inwood
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Marable (2006, 37) contended, reconstructing how we
remember black history is “inextricably” part of the
praxis necessary for reimagining a more socially just
present and future.
This article represents a critical (re)reading of Wen-
dell Scott’s racing biography, focusing on his NASCAR
career as creative, working-class resistance. We suspect
that for many geographers unaccustomed to critically
thinking about the role of sport in the material repro-
duction of society, Scott’s story will be unfamiliar. For
those who do know about Scott, however, there is value
in conducting new and revelatory (re)readings of his
life that expand our theorization of antiracist praxis
and significance. Pulling heavily from the title and con-
tent of Scott’s only comprehensive biography (Dono-
van 2008), we focus on “hard driving” practices used to
maintain and even enhance his mobility around tracks
as well as to and from races. Scott employed a range of
bodily, social, and technological work to make his anti-
racism mobility possible and, at times, competitive
among faster, technologically superior race cars and
better financed teams. He displayed a reticence regard-
ing politics and seldom, if ever, discussed civil rights
with other drivers or went public about racism in the
sport. Although Scott did not formally identify with
the civil rights movement, we argue that the very work
of driving was nonetheless part of his political practice
and important to the social struggle to access and move
about the stock car track and hence the larger U.S.
landscape of citizenship.
In revisiting the mobility biography of Scott, it is
important to explore the spatially and socially contex-
tual nature of his resistance. Like many African Amer-
icans living in the Jim Crow era, Scott employed a
savvy, hybrid practice of resistance and accommoda-
tion in which he sought to create a place within a
racialized sociospatial order even as he defied it. Scott
practiced an oppositional politics of negotiation, sur-
vivability, and material reproduction as much as con-
frontation. Central was the way he used competitive
movement on tracks to destabilize racist stereotypes
about blacks and demonstrate that the everyday racism
of stock car racing was not monolithic or complete.
His career exposed the fissures and contradictions
embedded within white supremacy even as it was
impossible for him to escape discrimination.
Past studies in geography have demonstrated the
value of contextualized or situated biographical study
in developing wider theoretical insights into the con-
struction of identity, the operation of social power,
and the meaning of mobility (Myers 1998; Meindl,
Alderman, and Waylen 2002; Nelson 2015). Impor-
tantly, a biographical approach is consistent with criti-
cal race theory, which asserts that the experiential
knowledge of people of color is central to understand-
ing and challenging racial inequality (Crenshaw 2011)
and thus necessary for fully exploring the lives, per-
spectives, and struggles of people of color. By inter-
preting Wendell Scott’s struggle for inclusion,
legitimacy, and survival within NASCAR, we use his
racing career to advance broader ideas about the geog-
raphy of black resistance and how it can be found in
some of the most unexpected of places, culturally and
politically. Scott’s biography prompts us to consider
the African American resistance that lies beyond
debates over formal political rights but is nevertheless
crucial to cultural citizenship and justice.
Our article begins with an introduction to NAS-
CAR and Scott. Next, we discuss important conceptual
background on the linkages between spatial mobility
and racialization in the United States, the idea of
mobility as antiracism work, and the contextualization
of working-class black resistance. We then move to the
broader case study of Scott’s countermobility work,
focusing on the significance of his bodily, social, and
technological practices in redefining the efficacy of his
movement and hence his antiracism resistance.
“They Didn’t Want to Use the Word
To explore the subaltern resistance of marginalized
populations, one must go not only to places identified
with tight racial control but to ones that are largely
outside of the view of scholarly attention. NASCAR
is one such place, recognizing that the sport’s racialized
geographies extend across many locations, scales,
social settings, and events—on and off the track.
NASCAR was “developed primarily by and for white,
working-class men” of the southeastern United States
(Pierce 2010, 9). Founder and President Bill France,
Sr., built the racing organization by forming alliances
with segregationist politicians such as South Carolina’s
Strom Thurmond and Alabama’s George Wallace,
who France supported in the 1972 U.S. presidential
election (Daniel 2000). France squashed two attempts
to organize racers, and NASCAR continues an anti-
union management style “more typical of a cotton mill
than a modern, billion-dollar, professional sporting
enterprise” (Pierce 2001, 9). Today, professional stock
car racing has expanded beyond its southern roots, but
Mobility as Antiracism Work 599
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it remains associated with conservative, if not reac-
tionary, racial politics and white cultural nationalism
(Alderman et al. 2003; Kusz 2007). Despite ongoing
investment in its “Drive for Diversity” program, NAS-
CAR grandstands, garages, and tracks are still largely
marked by reports of personal and institutional racism,
and the display of racially insensitive symbols such as
the Confederate battle flag is routine (Lee et al. 2010;
Ryan 2014).
Since NASCAR’s inception in 1947, only a handful
of black drivers have competed in its premier racing
series, and Wendell Scott was the only one to compete
in any significant and sustained way. In a career that
included 495 races in NASCAR’s Grand National
Series (the equivalent of today’s top Sprint Cup
Series) from 1961 to 1973, Scott amassed one win,
twenty top five finishes, and 147 top ten finishes.
Before joining the Grand National Series, he won
more than 120 lower division races and a Virginia
state championship in 1959. Scott was an independent
driver who faced significant financial difficulties borne
from his working-class social position, a reality that
forced Scott to race with a pit crew of family and
friends and often utilizing inferior cars and scavenged
parts. Although Scott loved racing, his involvement
was work—in terms of both the labor and knowledge
required to keep a race car running and through the
material practices of resistance.
Scott obtained a NASCAR racing license in
1953 after slipping through the process and to the
consternation of the association’s senior executives.
Later, France would personally promise Scott fair
treatment but in reality practiced a policy of
“inaction and silence” that provided Scott little
help in securing badly needed sponsorship or avoid-
ing discrimination at tracks, some of which France
held financial interest in (Donovan 2009). When
Scott drove in his first top series race in 1961 in
Spartanburg, South Carolina, track promoters
decided, at the request of NASCAR, not to tell
spectators that a black driver had joined the circuit
and Scott was never mentioned in prerace public-
ity. He was introduced on race day simply as W. D.
Scott in an effort to conceal his identity from
knowledgeable and potentially agitated white fans.
An important contrast can be made between the
media publicity that U.S. professional baseball
devoted to Jackie Robinson’s crossing of the color
barrier and the lack of acknowledgment given to
Scott. Baseball’s extensive media coverage “helped
to hold the sport’s leaders accountable for how
Robinson was treated,” whereas Scott was left in a
more vulnerable position (Donovan 2008, 83).
A racing license did not keep NASCAR officials
from tying up Scott at prerace inspections, refusing to
award him a rookie of the year award, or banning him
from certain tracks. Darlington Raceway’s Bob Colvin
would not allow Scott to race on his South Carolina
track until 1965, when forced by the passage of the
Civil Rights Act. Darlington’s marquee race, the
Southern 500, was promoted as a “defiant tribute to
the Old South” and “Darlington was NASCAR’s only
track to use the Confederate flag, instead of a green
flag, to start its races.” Colvin allegedly said that if a
black man ever won the Southern 500, the driver
would “never make it to victory lane” (Donovan 2008,
100). After Scott’s first race at Darlington, Colvin
refused to pay him money normally given to unspon-
sored drivers and openly called him a “nigger” (Dono-
van 2008, 155). Racial slurs were hurled at Scott when
he raced, although over time he built a popular follow-
ing among many white fans and drivers as the prover-
bial underdog. Other racers were violent, especially
early in Scott’s career when he proved competitive,
and the threat of being intentionally wrecked and hurt
by fellow drivers was an ever present danger.
Perhaps no event better illustrates the institutional
discrimination that Scott faced than his sole Grand
National win in December 1963—less than five
months after the March on Washington. Racing at
Jacksonville, Florida, Scott beat his nearest competitor
by two laps but was not recognized as the winner. The
second-place driver, Buck Baker, was declared the vic-
tor. Race promoters were supposedly apprehensive
about how fans in attendance would react to Scott
kissing the white beauty queen, a tradition at NAS-
CAR races. Two hours after the end of the race and
the departure of the crowds, race officials declared
Scott the winner, but they had no suitable trophy
because the official one had been given to Baker
(Karpf 2008). It would not be until 2010, twenty years
after Scott’s death and forty-seven years after the Jack-
sonville race, that NASCAR would award a trophy to
his family.
Even after the victory in Jacksonville, sponsorship
and factory backing from the automobile industry con-
tinued to elude Scott, despite receiving recommenda-
tions from prominent white and black people in racing
and business circles. Ironically, in excluding Scott,
potential sponsors cited the fact that he was banned
from certain tracks, such as Darlington, and they feared
potentially being drawn into “taking sides in a
600 Alderman and Inwood
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discrimination dispute” (Donovan 2008, 142). When
Ford’s executives finally gave him a race car, it was not
a current model and had to be repaired. The auto manu-
facturer publicly hid its relationship with Scott (Smy-
dra 2004). He continued to build race cars in his
modest backyard garage while race teams and shops
became larger, better financed, and more technologi-
cally sophisticated. Despite these obstacles, Scott
remained competitive, consistently finishing in the top
ten in point standings in the latter half of the 1960s.
The 1970s signaled a significant downturn for the
African American racer. His relations with NASCAR
soured further when he joined a major driver boycott
of the Talladega, Alabama, Speedway’s inaugural race
in protest of unsafe driving conditions. Talladega
also signaled an important transition from racing on
dirt tracks to paved speedways where the inferiority of
his cars became more apparent. Wishing to be more
competitive, Scott borrowed heavily to purchase a
Mercury and equip it with a state-of-the-art, custom-
made engine. In 1973, Scott raced the Mercury for the
first and last time at the notoriously fast and dangerous
Talladega track, where a wreck totaled the new vehi-
cle and caused him serious injuries. Financial difficul-
ties forced his retirement that same year (Donovan
The stock car racing industry is now more likely to
use the word “Wendell” than when Scott first began
driving. He was inducted into the International Motor
Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the NASCAR
Hall of Fame in 2015 (DanvilleVAGov 2015). The
recent NASCAR induction came amid growing public
pressure and the sport’s ongoing efforts to rehabilitate
its racist image, for marketing purposes if not for
socially progressive reasons. Although Scott’s story is
remarkable, it is also significant in that it is unexcep-
tional. Although the stock car trailblazer’s story is
apart from the ordinary black experience, he is also
recognizably part of the broader history of everyday
struggles and strides made by working-class African
Americans in claiming and redefining the terms of
their mobility and life chances.
Scott’s larger mobility biography is one of not just
challenging the color line in racing but moving in
broader transgressive ways. In Danville, a young Scott
often raced his bicycle against white children (Cham-
berlain 2015). Later, following the path of many early
NASCAR drivers (Thompson 2006), he built and ran
fast cars to transport moonshine (illegal liquor). He
also drove a taxi, which offered some limited freedom
from Virginia’s system of racial apartheid and allowed
him to interact with whites in a less deferential man-
ner than normally dictated by the era (Donovan
2008). It was Scott’s speeding tickets as a taxi driver
and ability to avoid arrest on moonshine runs that
caught the attention of the Dixie racing circuit, an
early competitor to NASCAR. Seeking to draw more
spectators, promoters came up with what they saw as
gimmick of pitting a black driver against a field of
white racers. What might have started as a Jim Crow
practice of stereotyping African Americans for enter-
tainment quickly became an opportunity for Scott to
redefine his social status; he won his first race less than
a month after joining the circuit (Donovan 2008).
Essential to Scott’s story and his resistance is how we
interpret him in relation to geographic mobility, and
specifically countermobility. As an extension of the
larger society, NASCAR sought to sustain white
supremacy by restricting the movement of African
Americans on tracks and enforcing the idea that being
a major league driver was a livelihood and cultural
identity reserved exclusively for whites. These practices
mirrored larger efforts in the U.S. South to contain the
growing African American freedom movements. Thus,
Scott’s racing career challenged the broader historical
production of black immobility in the United States.
Racialization of Mobility
The themes of spatial mobility, movement, and
transportation are underanalyzed avenues for exploring
the African American civil rights struggle (but see
Henderson 2006; Golub, Marcantonio, and Sanchez
2013). The politics of creating and maintaining racial
separation and inequality are complicated and, for the
most part, geographers have focused on the creation of
racialized identity and the production of place and
landscape (e.g., Schein 2006). No less important, how-
ever, is the racialization of movement, how the “right
to mobility” is “fundamentally intertwined with the
construction of racial identities” (Hague 2010, 331).
U.S. culture has perpetuated a normative association
between whiteness and mobility and the depiction of
nonwhite movement in negative and even dangerous
terms (Hague 2010). According to Mitchell (2000,
258), the social reification of racial differences and dis-
parities is accomplished by “ordering and controlling
the movement (and “travel”) of people” as well as an
ordering and controlling space and spatial boundaries.
Access to mobility and its accompanying opportunities
is not socially neutral but historically embedded within
Mobility as Antiracism Work 601
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the unequal distribution of rights and racialized hierar-
chies of power, including white supremacy (Seiler
2007). In other words, movement in the United States
is always geographical and is always racialized.
Mobility, according to Cresswell (2010, 21), is a
“resource that is differentially accessed.” He added that
the politics of race and the politics of mobility are
“joined at the hip” in the United States (Cresswell
2008, 134). Understanding racial inequalities requires
the development of a racialization framework that pays
attention to the historical restriction and regulation of
black movement—beginning with enslavement and
continuing through the use of vagrancy laws, lynching,
and segregated facilities during the Jim Crow era and
now with our far from colorblind system of mass incar-
ceration and hypermilitarized policing of urban Amer-
ica. As Cresswell (2006, 739), noted, “Some mobilities
depend on the relative immobility of others,” and ensur-
ing the free movement of white America has often
required, consciously or unconsciously, the immobiliz-
ing of African Americans—whether it was mid-twenti-
eth-century federally funded highway development
demolishing black neighborhoods or the ongoing divest-
ment of public transit systems to subsidize car travel and
the “spatial secession” of white middle and upper class
families to ever expanding suburbs (Henderson 2006).
According to Lipsitz (2011), “The strong desire to move
freely across space formed an important part of the Black
spatial imaginary, but it has rarely been easy to translate
those hopes of moving freely with the ability to actually
do so for African Americans” (66).
Yet, oppressive systems give rise to resistance. As
McKittrick (2011) contended, a social science that
does not take resistance seriously runs the risk of natu-
ralizing the displacement of African Americans and
has the effect of erasing and foreclosing the emancipa-
tory potential and human experiences of black resis-
tance to oppression. Thus, a racialized perspective must
recognize that people of color not only challenge racial
control by seeking to move on their own terms but are
engaged in a complex relationship with oppression. For
these reasons we use two terms to discuss mobility. The
first, black mobility, refers to the range of movement-
controlling practices that are reflected in the produc-
tion of white supremacy and that were central to the
exercise of segregation in the Jim Crow South and that
fundamentally structured life for Scott. The second
term, antiracism mobility, refers to the strategies Scott
employed to resist segregation and the restrictions of
black mobility. Antiracism mobility refers to the mean-
ingful countermobilities that subvert racism and that
have long served as an important political organizing
strategy for African Americans—from escaping slavery
to the postemancipation Great Migration out of the
South, from the freedom rides of the civil rights move-
ment to more recent transportation justice campaigns
(Alderman, Kingsbury, and Dwyer 2013).
Despite the recognition of the importance of black
mobility struggles in the United States, there remains
within geography specifically, but also the social scien-
ces more generally, an underappreciation of the ter-
rains on which these resistant movements take place.
Especially neglected have been those moments beyond
overt protest, when people of color have moved in
transgressive ways in the struggle to survive. In other
words, there is not only a need to “recover and explore
aspects of black working-class life and politics that
have been relegated to the margins” but a concomitant
need to focus on the anti-racism “counter-mobility
work” of ordinary African Americans in an effort to
provide new and varied understandings of “the strate-
gies of resistance and survival” (Kelley 1996, 4).
The Work of Antiracism Mobility
Important in developing a racialization of mobility
framework, as well as understanding the gravity of
Scott’s story, is to understand black geographies beyond
simply drawing distinctions between oppressive and
resistant modes of movement without exploring how
these mobilities are fashioned. Cresswell (2010) mir-
rored this argument, calling on scholars to break down
the binary of mobility–immobility into an understand-
ing of the specific aspects or practices of moving and
how they take on political importance. Exploring the
alternative mobilities constructed by immigrant drivers
in contemporary Atlanta, Stuesse and Coleman (2014)
identified the creative strategies, assessments, and use
of technology employed by communities of color to
evade unfair policing of their driving and efforts to iso-
late them economically and socially.
We suggest a similar approach, one that pays atten-
tion to the practices that blacks have actively fashioned
and employed to transform their geographic immobility
(or controlled mobility) into movement that subverts
white supremacy and embodies antiracism. We seek to
move this perspective forward by suggesting that the
social construction and contestation of mobility is a
matter of work. Even the relatively free movement of
people and things requires decision making, coordina-
tion, and an accomplishment of tasks—“mobility work”
602 Alderman and Inwood
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(Bardram and Bossen 2005). When African Americans
go against the social and spatial friction of immobility
and oppression, the labor is even more significant.
Antiracism mobility work, as we use it, refers to the
broad array of creative and savvy practices required to
move in transgressive and resistant ways.
Important to the story of Wendell Scott’s antirac-
ism mobility work in NASCAR is the larger role
played by the automobile within the racialized experi-
ences of African Americans. The automobile is a
“deeply contradictory mode of mobility and
immobility” that “both ‘frees’ and ‘fixes’ populations”
(Stuesse and Coleman 2014, 56). Historically, driving
was an arena for asserting and debating ideas about
cultural citizenship, individual and social freedom, the
governance of mobility, and public anxieties over the
unfettered movement of marginalized groups (Packer
2008; Seiler 2008). There is a long history of police
racially profiling black drivers and the broader role of
automobility in reproducing if not deepening hierar-
chies of race, class, and power within the United
States. But there is also a history of African Americans
appropriating and reworking the act of driving into an
antiracist countermobility.
Private car travel during the Jim Crow era allowed
middle-class African Americans to escape racial segre-
gation and discrimination in public transportation
(Franz 2004). Given the harassment and even vio-
lence that awaited black drivers on the “open road,”
however, circumventing white supremacy was not fully
possible without carrying out a creative suite of travel
practices and mobility work that included traveling at
certain times of the day (night), packing provisions in
the event of not finding hospitable accommodations,
seeking out and relying on travel information from
other black motorists, conducting a strategic reading
of landmarks and racial boundaries within cities, and
using subaltern travel guides to locate establishments
friendly to people of color (Alderman and Inwood
During the civil rights movement, the automobile
was used quite visibly as a tool of black protest. Boy-
cotters of segregated busses in Montgomery, Alabama,
and other southern cities developed elaborate alterna-
tive transportation systems employing carpools, taxis,
and church shuttles, demonstrating how African
American countermobility work, rather than simply
emerging in opposition to white supremacy, is often
brought to life through careful planning resources,
schedules, and forms of geospatial intelligence from
below (Alderman, Kingsbury, and Dwyer 2013).
Important to Scott’s story is how black antiracism
mobilities come in different political forms and that
this countermobility illustrates the complicated geog-
raphies of resistance in which the automobile and
driving are central. Scott saw the automobile as sym-
bol of freedom and self-determination, but he did not
necessarily see it as a tool of formal protest. Con-
versely, he did not drive to avoid harassment from
whites or circumvent discrimination. Scott compli-
cates our understanding of resistance by fashioning an
antiracism mobility in which he challenged white
supremacy in NASCAR by simultaneously racing with
and against a sport that would have preferred that he
disappear from the track. The complexity of Scott’s
political engagement and the meaning of his driving
practices prompt us to problematize some of our domi-
nant conceptions of black resistance.
Contextualizing Black Resistance and
To fully contextualize Wendell Scott’s antiracism
mobility, one must recognize the relationship between
resistance and accommodation. African American
resistance to white supremacy comes in many forms—
from the overt to the covert and sometimes even the
unwitting (Hollander and Einwohner 2004). Kelley
(1993, 78) challenged the idea that the “political
hinges on whether or not groups are involved in elec-
tions, political parties, grass-roots social movements.”
Focusing on black working-class life in the Jim Crow
South, Kelley called for an analysis of those daily,
often hidden forms of black resistance and survival
that not only informed but served as foundations for
organized political movement. Similarly, Domosh
(1998) explored how African American women
manipulated their mobility on the streets of nine-
teenth-century New York City, recognizing that
“tactical” and transgressive everyday acts and decisions
previously characterized as apolitical can actually have
important political implications. According to her,
transgressive spatial practices are contextually situated
and interpreted; that is, their meanings are defined in
light of the social and spatial context within which
they emerge.
Scott’s story illustrates that rather than being polar
opposites, black resistance and accommodation are
dialectical, thus giving “us a far richer and more
nuanced picture of social life” (Weitz 2001, 670). The
reality is that resistance and accommodation are
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intertwined and each was pursued differently depend-
ing on the geographical context at hand and the man-
ner and extent of the opposition faced. Introducing
the concept of “differential racialization,” Pulido
(2002, 765) suggested that “specific forms of oppres-
sion and exploitation result in particular types of racial
and revolutionary politics” depending on how racism
is lived out and experienced within unique historical
and spatial experiences. Consequently, what consti-
tutes black resistance must be interpreted in relation
to the position of African Americans within a local
racial order.
With Scott’s brand of resistance, it is important to
understand that he was a lone African American
driver operating in a region, time, and sport in which
white supremacy was not only harsh but could quickly
turn violent. Scott’s everyday acts of traveling to unfa-
miliar, segregated towns and racing on unfriendly
tracks, although not appearing as radical mobility poli-
tics, nonetheless speak to how he navigated such a
complex terrain. That he survived is testament to his
antiracism mobility practices.
In contextualizing Scott’s antiracism mobility prac-
tices, it is important to understand how survival and
resiliency are interrelated tools in challenging white
supremacy. For African Americans in the Jim Crow
era, accommodation and survival could be read as
oppositional strategies or techniques for navigating
racism rather than simply the acceptance of oppres-
sion, a means of resisting one’s unjust conditions with-
out seeming to do so (Litwack 1998). Suggesting that
geographers have tended to take human survival for
granted, Heynen (2009) defined the “right to survive”
as a radical political action and reflected on the every-
day politics of social reproduction within the African
American community. The struggle to survive is a
bodily act and black resistance is grounded in meeting
the material conditions of the body within an unjust
and life-threatening socioeconomic system.
Gilbert (1998) talked about survival in the context
of the racial politics of mobility. She argued that the
idea of (im)mobility in and of itself is not necessarily
helpful in fully capturing the spatialities of everyday
life or understanding the level of power or powerless-
ness experienced by the working poor. Rather, mobil-
ity or immobility is made meaningful and hence
mitigated based on the survival strategies people
employ, recognizing that this struggle for survivability
is directly shaped by individual and institutionalized
racism. Gilbert (1998, 599) saw a creative agency
among working people of color; that survival, rather
than a passive condition, is something strategically
fashioned through “everyday decisions and practices
... to ensure the economic and emotional well-being
of themselves and their families.” Placing survivability
in a critical political context not only allows us to
heed McKittrick’s (2011, 958) call not to “re-isolate
the dispossessed” but situates African American suffer-
ing and opposition within a broader relational under-
standing of human life and racialized spaces of
encounter that is central to understanding antiracist
To discuss survivability in the context of professional
stock car racing might strike some readers as unusual, but
such a perspective flattens out differences among people
of color while minimizing the dangers that Wendell Scott
faced in NASCAR as he sought to move in ways that
called into question white control of the sport. As noted,
it was not uncommon for Scott’s white competitors to
knock him out of races and there were numerous instan-
ces of fans and drivers threatening violence at raceways.
Given the particular violent politics of the U.S. South
and the prevalence of lynching, it was a threat not to be
taken lightly, and African Americans had long taught
themselves and their children how to survive and subvert
this violence (Litwack 1998).
Scott’s son Frank, who worked in his father’s pit
crew, recounted the violence faced at race tracks:
“When he [Scott] planned to go to Atlanta, he ...
received death threats. Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in
a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race’”
(National Public Radio 2015). On more than one
occasion, Atlanta was important in reminding Scott of
how white supremacy and segregation threatened his
survivability on the racetrack. He first raced in the
city in 1955, during his minor league days, and wit-
nessed something that stayed in his mind for the rest
of his career. Scott retold the event:
That Sunday they [Atlanta track officials] wouldn’t
lance from the black funeral home got there. They
had a white ambulance for the white drivers, and
they had one ambulance for me. That Sunday they
had a terrible wreck and a boy got hurt real bad. The
guys in the white ambulance had been running the
radio and the battery was dead. They had to use the
black ambulance to take him to the hospital. I often
wondered, if I had a wreck and the black ambulance
wouldn’t start, would they have taken me in the
white ambulance? They probably would’ve let me lay
there and die, back in them days. (Wilkinson 1983,
118–19; Donovan 2008, 73)
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Scott saw an increase in racial tension and white
hostility toward him at NASCAR tracks in 1963, a
pivotal year in the civil rights movement. A white
mob confronted Scott and his family at a Hillsbor-
ough, North Carolina, track. He quickly had to leave
after a race in Birmingham, Alabama, when an angry
crowd planned to turn his car over and burn it (Dono-
van 2008). Scott had only one car to race at a time
and it was imperative to keep that vehicle functioning
so that he could race another day. Sponsored drivers
could have multiple cars at their disposal and some,
such as Jack Smith of Georgia, used this fact in threat-
ening to wreck Scott. When Scott set the fastest quali-
fying time at the Savannah Speedway in July 1962,
Smith allegedly told him: “I got five of these Pontiacs
[race cars], all alike, and when they drop the green
flag, I’m going to stick this one clean up your ass”
(Donovan 2008, 109).
The comments of Jack Smith represented a threat
not only to Scott’s physical safety but also to his ability
to materially reproduce himself and his large family.
Making a living was difficult for the African American
driver, who also worked as a full-time automobile
mechanic in Danville and continued to bootleg moon-
shine to supplement his income. Having repeatedly bor-
rowed against his home mortgage, Scott stayed in heavy
debt to remain in racing and every day he faced the
prospect of not being able to compete in NASCAR.
To have competed at such a high level for so long and
over so many races represents, in his own way, an artic-
ulation of the right to survive materially and bodily.
An important part of Scott’s resistant survivability
was the way in which he exerted agency over his own
geographic mobility and how he used his movement to
counter and negotiate the racist ways in which the
race track was constructed and realized as a white
place. For the remainder of the article, we identify the
specific countermobility practices that Scott employed
through his daily work to compete in NASCAR, exer-
cise his right to survive, and hence resist being
excluded from racing.
Scott’s Hard Driving Practices and
Antiracism Mobility Work
For the African American experience, with its his-
tory of white control of black bodies, it is especially
important to understand what practices underpinned
the struggle against black (im)mobility. Given that
Scott is known for his success in driving under adverse
conditions, it is surprising that there is limited public
discussion of exactly how he resourcefully navigated
racist landscapes and the array of bodily, social, and
technological work practices that allowed him to sur-
vive and subvert racism in NASCAR.
Bodily Work Practices
Scott’s resiliency and competiveness in stock car
racing was a product of how he bodily interacted with
and mastered the track and the car engine, as well as
how he negotiated his own body and those of others to
expose and take advantage of the incongruities and
inconsistencies in U.S. white supremacy. In terms of
exploring his embodied interaction with the automo-
bile, it is important to note that NASCAR raced on
dirt tracks throughout much of Scott’s career and that
he practiced an effective power slide technique on
such tracks. This technique required Scott to place the
steering wheel firmly against his chest and make vio-
lent jerks with the wheel to negotiate the tight turns
of tracks and outmaneuver opponents (Harris-Holley
and Karpf 2011). Such racing relied on the reflexes,
strength, and endurance of drivers rather than simply
driving cars at high speeds. Scott did this type of “hard
driving” while suffering from debilitating, stress-
induced stomach ulcers, which would cause vomiting
and severe cramps (Donovan 2008).
Racing took great bodily control on the track, but
driving in NASCAR for Scott also required careful
embodied practices of work off the track. Scott
avoided and was usually not forced to engage in physi-
cal confrontation with angry competitors or fans.
Throughout his early career, Scott was accompanied
to races by white friends and former racing competitors
Buck Drummond and Earl Brooks, who intervened
during moments of racial tension. Chamberlain
(2015) reconstructed such a moment:
Scott won a race, besting a white driver named Ward
McDonald. McDonald was furious to lose to a Black man
and smashed his car into Wendell’s, eventually pushing
him into the infield. McDonald began climbing out of
his car, ready to attack Wendell. ... Scott knew that he
couldn’t fight a white driver in front of a racially hostile
audience. Earl Brooks ... ran over to McDonald’s car,
pulled him out and beat him up, saving Scott from a diffi-
cult predicament.
Although often unacknowledged by mainstream
readings of the civil rights struggle, a small number of
white allies stepped forward during the movement to
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provide financial assistance, political cover, or other
forms of support for African Americans in segregated
society (Brown 2002). Chappell (1996) noted that
throughout the history of the U.S. South and despite
the rhetoric of ardent segregationists, resistance to
civil rights was not monolithic and a complex web of
social relations existed between blacks and whites. By
taking advantage of this reality, Scott displayed a com-
plex understanding of the social and political realities
of white supremacy and was able to leverage these real-
ities to maneuver on and off the track. For Scott, the
few whites who would work with him realized that sur-
viving and competing within a racist NASCAR
required that Wendell could not be involved in bodily
violence for fear of the white mob and loss of credibil-
ity in the eyes of the broader public. Scott’s
“bodyguards” speak not only to the strategic alliances
that Scott established with some members of the white
community but also to the ways in which survivability
is always dependent on the forging of coalitions.
Scott’s coalition-building work with family, friends,
and some whites provided the breathing space needed
to ensure his spatial mobility on and off the track, as
well as the impossibility of the idea that white suprem-
acy was complete in separating and pitting whites and
blacks against each other.
No matter how many white supporters Scott had,
the reality is that he lived at a time and in a region
where his bodily existence was threatened by violent
white supremacists. At times this forced Scott to
engage in practices and racial politics that put him in
a compromising position. On a few occasions, Scott
even took advantage of his own bodily characteris-
tics—specifically his lighter skin—to navigate through
harsh conditions, although he never denied that he
was an African American to a track owner or NAS-
CAR official. The idea of “passing” is controversial
and speaks to broad cleavages within the African
American community that have long correlated ligh-
ter skin with particular class formations within the
community (DeCuir-Gunby 2006). Although Scott
was from a working-class background and long strug-
gled to achieve financial security, his lighter appear-
ance could afford him opportunities to navigate the
complex geographies of the Jim Crow South.
Donovan (2008) described a situation in which
Scott needed the help of a garage while traveling
home from a race but, like many black motorists,
found service stations that would accommodate only
whites. Scott wore a cap over his head and posed as
the white boss of a black race crew to receive help and
make it home safely. He went as far as referring to his
crew, which included his own sons, as “niggers” to con-
vince the garage owner of his supposed whiteness.
Scott’s passing for a cruel white person, which he later
described as heartbreaking, not only demonstrates how
the driver creatively turned Jim Crow’s racial politics
of the body against itself but also unmasked the illegit-
imacy of whiteness as an objective racial identity and
thus exposed it as a socially constructed point of supe-
riority and privilege. This is indicative of what Du
Bois ([1903] 1994) described as “double conscious-
ness,” the process of dislocation that comes from being
“an American, a Negro, two souls, two thoughts, two
unreconciled striving; two warring ideals in one dark
body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being
torn asunder” (2). The story of Scott having not only
to “pass” but to engage in racist rhetoric speaks to
what Inwood (2009, 490) described as the “dual sense
of not belonging” that forms the spatial dislocations of
being black and having to participate in a normative
society determined to keep African Americans in their
place. Critically, this experience “creates a realm of
geographic possibilities and imaginations” (Inwood
2009, 490) that African Americans were able to draw
from to create the very foundation of survivability in
the face of white supremacy. Perhaps more poignant,
this story recalls how many African Americans in the
U.S. South were often placed in a position of having
to engage in practices that compromised their racial-
ized position in society.
Social Work Practices
Underlying Scott’s bodily enactments and antiracism
mobility work was a savviness in managing what could
be tense social relations on and around the NASCAR
track. Scott responded to white opponents with differ-
ent strategies of resistance, realizing that certain opposi-
tional actions were possible (and some were not) in
light of the specific racial order of stock car racing. Spe-
cifically, he practiced a creative mixture of self-defense
and tactical avoidance that prompts us to consider the
dialectical nature of resistance and accommodation.
There were instances when Scott engaged in self-
defense as part of his politics of survivability. Because
of the harassment and violence that greeted black
motorists on the road during Jim Crow, Scott rarely
traveled to races alone and he drove to tracks with a
pistol under his seat, which was not that uncommon
among African American travelers at the time.
Although it is true that Scott would not rush to
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participate in overt confrontations with whites, he did
not shy away from defending his family when they
faced racialized violence at a track. Twice during the
1965 season, Scott confronted groups of white men
who were terrorizing his teenage sons. At a North Car-
olina speedway, angry spectators threatened to castrate
his sons. In both cases, a screaming and cussing Scott
promised to kill the offenders without hesitation,
which worked to defuse the situation (Donovan
2008). One of Scott’s greatest opponents was fellow
driver Jack Smith, who was strongly opposed to black
participation in NASCAR. In the 1962 season, Smith
repeatedly wrecked, spun out, and crowded Scott on
the track. Finally, in Valdosta, Georgia, Scott pointed
a loaded gun at Smith while they were both in cars
running pace laps on the track. Later, in Hickory,
North Carolina, Scott threatened to kill Smith if he
ever intentionally hit his car again. No more trouble
was had from Smith (Chamberlain 2015).
Self-defense could find its way onto the track,
but Scott most often approached stressed social
relations with fellow drivers by employing a strategy
of tactical avoidance. We say “tactical avoidance”
to capture the idea that nonconfrontation, or even
accommodation, is not simply the acceptance of
racism but has the potential to become a form of
resistance when used in strategic ways. Knowing
that NASCAR would pounce on any opportunity
to ban Scott from the circuit and thus end his rac-
ing career, he seldom carried out the kind of threat
made to Jack Smith. Instead, the African American
driver produced a creative countermobility in which
he drove hard and competitively while also practic-
ing nonaggression on the track—working daily to
strike a remarkable and delicate social balance. He
would outcompete white drivers but not wreck
them and, as a rule, he would not retaliate against
a white driver who had wrecked him. This strategy
not only ensured that he would not be penalized by
NASCAR officials but also worked to build sympa-
thy and support among some white fans and drivers
who witnessed the discrimination that Scott faced.
In effect, Scott socially fashioned his brand of rac-
ing in nonviolent ways, which made it possible to
create a countermobility that exposed the brutality
and immorality of racism, the potential fissures in
the hegemony of white supremacy, as well as ensur-
ing his own physical and survival on the track.
Sadly, the use of tactical avoidance, shaped by the
necessity of having to survive white supremacy, worked
against his efforts to attract and garner the limited
amount of sponsorship available to him. Early in Scott’s
NASCAR career, before reaching the top racing series,
he drove for a team owned by a white trucking execu-
tive named Monroe Shook. Scott hoped that the rela-
tionship with Shook would lead to a sponsored ride in
the elite Grand National circuit, but he needed a win
at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. South Boston
was a close contest between Scott and the white race
leader, Gip Gibson. Concerned about spectators get-
ting ugly and turning on him, Scott refused to “put aside
his long-standing practice of avoiding deliberate con-
tact” and nudge Gibson’s car out of the way, which was
often done by white drivers. Moreover, when Gibson’s
car came to a stop on the track, Scott was not willing to
overtake his opponent and hence he came in second.
“The incident cost Scott the confidence of Monroe
Shook,” who angrily fired his African American driver
and removed any possibility of securing a competitive,
sponsored Grand National car (Donovan 2008, 83).
This story highlights the catch-22 of a black man racing
in a white supremacist sport. Scott was expected to fol-
low the same aggressive competitive driving practices
as his white counterparts, but racing that way would
most assuredly cause a public backlash and further
increase his vulnerability to being wrecked, making
him unable to compete for top finishes and financial
backing. It is in this complex “damned if you do,
damned if you don’t” world in which Scott had to make
key social decisions that would ensure his immediate
mobility but that hurt his future competiveness and
success. The driver who Shook eventually chose to
sponsor won two NASCAR season championships.
This is a much more nuanced examination of how rac-
ism in NASCAR operated and constrained Scott. As
his dilemma illustrates, black resistance is an uneven
and negotiated process and shaped by a politics of possi-
bility within a geographically defined, local racial order.
The power of white supremacy is not just in how it
directly controls or oppresses people of color but also in
how just the potential threat of racism limits activism
and confrontation with whites.
Technological Work Practices
Important to Scott’s antiracism mobility work and
survivability were the technological efforts he per-
formed. He was a master, self-taught mechanic known
for innovation and improvisation with equipment.
Friend Earl Brooks recalls that Scott used baby scales
to measure parts, whereas other teams had the luxury
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of highly calibrated equipment (Smydra 2004).
Contemporaries also retell stories of how Scott, who
often served as both driver and mechanic during races,
would jump of out of his car at pit stops and perform
repairs. Charlotte Observer racing writer Tom Higgins
reflected on Scott’s technical prowess as well as how
this mobility work was always made in the context of
the politics of ensuring material reproduction.
I saw his [Scott’s] car break suspension at Charlotte [race
track] one time. He pulled it [the car] behind the pit
wall, got out, and repaired the thing by himself. ... After
the race, I asked, “Wendell, why did you bust your fanny
like that to just get back in the race?” He told me, “One
more position [at the finish line] might be the difference
next week in whether I sleep in a motel or in my truck.”
(DanvilleVAGov 2015)
It is worth noting that the issue of where Scott fin-
ished the race did not simply determine the quality of
next week’s accommodations but directly affected his
safety on the road as African Americans had to be
very cautious about when and where they traveled in
the face of hostile communities and hypervigilant
policing. A black man sleeping in a truck in a strange
place could be dangerous in addition to uncomfortable.
Scott’s antiracism mobility was not just a matter of
working on technology but working with technology
in establishing an embodied relationship with his
automobile equipment. In doing so, he created what
Dant (2004) called an “assemblage” between car and
driver that together brought about a social action and
capacity to move greater than the sum of the two
(Dant 2004). Recognizing the ability of black bodies
to engage in such assemblages or hybrid relationships
with technology and to transform these relationships
into sites of antiracism offers a picture of resistance as
a set of sophisticated practices, subjectivities, and con-
nections with material objects. Such recognition
moves our understanding of antiracist activism beyond
simply the physicality of marches, protests, sit-ins, and
boycotts. Scott appeared to be deeply “in touch” with
his race cars and he was known for tasting hot motor
oil and testing spark plugs by hand to detect equip-
ment problems. A close mechanical relationship
between driver and car was not uncommon in the
early days of NASCAR, but it was especially critical
to Scott’s material reproduction and hence the anti-
racism praxis of his survivability. It was important for
him to have a well-functioning car to pay creditors at
home or just to have enough money to travel back
home after a race.
An important part of Scott’s antiracism mobility
practice was the assemblage between him, the race car,
and the track itself; indeed, stock car racing is about
managing and constantly adjusting, on a mechanical
level, the relationship among the three. Perhaps the
Jacksonville win in 1963 is one of the best examples of
how the work of recalibrating this car–driver–track
assemblage helped keep Scott mobile and competitive
on the race track. Recent rain had caused the Florida
track to have severe bumps and ruts, which caused
many of the drivers to bounce, break axles and wheels,
and lose traction. To adapt to the track, improve the
car’s suspension, as well as play to his racing style, Scott
made the drastic decision of removing one of the two
shock absorbers at each corner of the car, allowing him
to outrun faster, factory-backed race cars. In this case,
driving hard was not simply about enduring the difficult
track but making important decisions that allowed
Scott to make the race more about handling rather
than speed. On average, sponsored race cars ran ten to
fifteen miles per hour faster than Scott’s car, and
squeezing performance from inferior cars was important
to his hard driving (Donovan 2008).
Scott’s technological work included quickly repair-
ing cars and rebuilding engines in alleys and parking
lots and amid hostile prerace inspections. Scott and
his sons would scour tracks after races for used parts
and tires, even eating some of the food not finished by
race teams. He also benefited from used parts given by
sympathetic drivers and crew chiefs (Harris-Holley
and Karpf 2011). Scott used this support and his own
entrepreneurialism in combing through junkyards and
trading for parts to survive and at times do well, espe-
cially on short tracks where horsepower mattered less.
It was clear that he was outmatched, though, when
compared to sponsored drivers.
Because of the inferior power of his equipment,
Scott’s antiracism mobility in NASCAR had to be
resourceful and well planned. He made strategic deci-
sions about how hard to race his car when driving
against especially fast, superior cars. Sometimes Scott
ran more cautiously or less competitively in prelimi-
nary races leading up to the feature races to minimize
car damage or to position himself to run in consolation
races to make more prize money. Whereas other driv-
ers could run hard the entire race and run the risk of
wrecking or blowing an engine, Scott did not have
that luxury. Scott’s son, Wendell, Jr., remembered
how the politics of survivability and material repro-
duction directly shaped his father’s approach to racing
and how he meticulously scrutinized the competition
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in relation to his own car. By necessity, Scott was
focused on finishing in the top ten more so than racing
“full out” for a win. According to Wendell, Jr., “Top
ten meant the light bill got paid or my third or fourth
sister was going to get new shoes. That’s the Wendell
Scott story” (Karpf 2008).
As part of his mobility work, Scott found himself in
the difficult day-to-day position of making decisions
about when to push the mechanical performance of his
cars in the face of the severe economic inequalities that
faced him as lone, black driver with no sponsorship.
These decisions were important and gut-wrenching
livelihood calculations, which reflect the complex rela-
tionship that the black driver had with his car.
Although Scott’s technological–economic calculations
kept him moving and racing, they probably resulted in
far fewer wins than he was capable of, thus further hurt-
ing his chances for sponsorship and for securing a more
competitive ride, mechanically and financially.
Concluding Remarks
Geographers have yet to take on a full treatment of
the African American civil rights struggle, and any
effort to do so must address the role of spatial mobility
within the struggles for social justice and, in particular,
the rich if not fully understood story of working-class
mobility struggles. The point of our article has not been
to recast Wendell Scott as a civil rights activist, a label
that the driver himself would have avoided using.
Indeed, Scott instructed his children not to engage in
protest activity, fearing that a perceived connection
with such activism would hurt his chances in NAS-
CAR. At a time when the civil rights movement was
identified with bus boycotts and freedom rides, how-
ever, it is important to remember that someone such as
Scott used transportation and mobility in a different
way politically, as he sought to compete as an equal
against white drivers and racing teams. Radical politi-
cal action is about African Americans engaging in daily
spatial struggles, sometimes overt but often nuanced,
for the “right to survive” and the “right to move.”
By (re)reading the history of the Wendell Scotts of
the world, we are able to understand how the freedom
of movement and hence livelihood have been racially
controlled, as well as the capacity of people of color to
rework their geographic mobility to subvert and counter
oppression. Importantly, Scott opens up space for us to
think about how the politics of black mobility plays
itself out in particular geographic and social contexts
and its relationship to the politics of survivability, mate-
rial reproduction, and oppositional accommodation.
Scott’s countermobility depended on an array of bodily,
social, and technological work practices. These practi-
ces resonate beyond the race track and apply to the
mobility strategies employed by many everyday African
Americans on the move. We hope that the idea of
mobility as antiracism work opens up broader terrains
for analyzing the black experience, not only in the past
but also in terms of continuing injustices and struggles.
Whether on a race track, sidewalk, or a hyperpoliced
road, spatial mobility serves as a contested terrain in
which different social actors engage in complex politi-
cal struggles fraught with the potential to reinscribe his-
toric patterns of discrimination or, on a more hopeful
note, free people from oppressive conditions.
We would like to thank the editor and anonymous
reviewers for their valuable comments, which resulted
in an improved article. Appreciation is also extended
to Suzanne Wise, Curator of the Stock Car Racing
Collection at Appalachian State University, for her
archival assistance. Previous versions of this article
were presented at the 2014 Race, Ethnicity, and Place
Conference, the 2013 meeting of the Southeastern
Division of the Association of American Geographers,
and at Middle Tennessee State University.
1. This phrase comes from Wendell Scott’s biographer
(Donovan 2008, 93).
2. In the wake of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church mas-
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to the public display of the Confederate battle flag,
NASCAR has called on fans not to wave the flag at
races. Yet, Confederate flags continue to be visibly flown
at race tracks by spectators, who claim that the flag is
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DEREK H. ALDERMAN is a Professor and Head of the
Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, TN 37996. E-mail: His
research interests include cultural and historical geogra-
phies of race and civil rights in the U.S. South, the racial-
ized politics of mobility and travel, and geographies of
popular culture.
JOSHUA INWOOD is an Associate Professor and holds a
joint appointment in the Department of Geography and the
Africana Studies Program at the University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, TN 37996. E-mail: His
research engages with questions of race, identity, and white
supremacy and peace studies.
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... The variety of historical ways of understanding blackness, as well as the shifting and varied notions about who counts as Black at any one moment, makes it much easier not to construe this cultural construct in abstract or essentializing terms [10] (p. 19). ...
... Compounding this further is the fact that since NASCAR's inception in 1948, only a handful of Black drivers have competed at the premier level of the sport, as Wendell Scott and more recently, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace, Jr., have served as the sole two to compete in any significant and sustained manner. Specific to Scott's racing career, NASCAR served as an extension of U.S. society in that it "sought to sustain White supremacy by restricting the movement of African Americans on tracks and enforcing the idea that being a major league driver was a livelihood and cultural identity reserved exclusively for Whites" [19] (p. 601). ...
... As I will argue, such an approach simultaneously extends the analytic potential of research on and provides a lens to engage more thoroughly with and understand the scale of Black NAS-CAR fandom, as well as the agency of Black fans. Thus, in providing empirical evidence showing how Black fans shift the otherwise oppressive geographies of NASCAR into sites of belongingness, celebration, and enjoyment, I advance the theoretical understanding of how "White spaces" can be contested through processes of racialized resistance, such as that of antiracism mobility work [19]. Through the process of Black placemaking, my participants constructed and employed practices to transform their geographic "immobility" (both discursive and physical) into a reality that subverts racism and White supremacy more broadly. ...
Full-text available
This article examines how blackness is not only situated within sporting spaces, but also, and more narrowly, experienced within a historically and predominantly White sporting space—that of NASCAR. To explore and define Black individuals’ racialized experiences and movements as NASCAR fans from their perspective, this article uses a qualitative approach as grounded in narrative inquiry. Findings suggest that Black fans shift the otherwise oppressive geographies of NASCAR into sites of belongingness, celebration, and enjoyment, which advances the theoretical understanding of how “White spaces” can be contested through processes of racialized resistance. Thus, through the process of Black placemaking, Black fans construct and employ practices to transform their geographic “immobility” (both discursive and physical) into a reality that subverts racism and White supremacy more broadly.
... The discipline of geography has a long but often troubling history of engagement with the concepts of race and racism, dating back to the early 20th century (Tyner 2016). More recently, however, critical geographers have variously and increasingly promoted the idea of anti-racism (Pulido 2002;Nash 2003;Kobayashi 2014;Alderman and Inwood 2016;Baird 2018;Alderman et al. 2021) and "other" geographies (Eaves 2020;Oswin 2020). This includes the idea of combatting what Katherine McKittrick (2014) has called being (un)visible and (un)geographic. ...
... This article deals with what Alderman and Inwood (2016) call "anti-racism work." Anti-racism work can occur in various ways, including through revealing and criticizing racist practices (Nash 2003;Baird 2018), promoting anti-racist education (Alderman et al. 2021), conducting "memory-work" via museum theatre (Benjamin and Alderman 2018), organizing anti-racist walking tours (Truman and Springgay 2019), promoting community food movements (Slocum 2006), revealing blackness (Sweet 2021), and demonstrating how certain environmental policies are designed to create particular anti-Black spaces (Wright 2021), amongst many other possibilities. ...
This article contributes to the burgeoning dialogue in Black geographies by adding a focus on transport. Because there is no singular, all-encompassing framework for Black geographies, this article draws on a long history of Blackness and Whiteness in the discipline of geography and beyond. It contextualizes the contemporary conversation within critical reflections from feminist, indigenous, and queer as well as decolonial and postcolonial studies. These wider considerations are especially important for geography, a discipline historically detached from efforts to deracialize the city. The article then refines its focus on Blackness and transport by reflecting on race and mobility in South African cities. The empirical focus for these deliberations is Johannesburg, where transport has historically been used as a tool for discrimination and control, and in the postapartheid context, transport provides unbridled opportunities for social and spatial integration. Three frameworks for exploring Black transport geographies are then introduced: the policies and laws that control movement, community action and protest against racist transport, and the emergence of informal transport systems. The aim of this article, however, is not to promote a particular approach for bringing transport into conversation with Black geographies, but rather to provide a rigorous reflection that is not only analytically productive but practically useful.
The sporting world in a post COVID-19 environment will undergo meaningful changes to many aspects of its existence over the next few years. Structural changes to the sport, fan interaction, fan identity, economic impacts on the local communities, and various changes to the physical landscape, are all issues we are likely to see after sporting leagues resume “normal” operations. This chapter seeks to examine how the COVID-19 virus will impact sports from a geographic perspective. What does an overall structural change to a sport mean for local communities’ economy and neighborhood identity? This project will offer a better understanding of the social, racial justice, and economic impacts felt at the local level by examining the English Premier league and NASCAR as barometers. This chapter will compare data collected prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 to data collected after, both datasets dealing with similar issues involved with the sports discussed here.
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This article places its attention on how the spatial boundaries, practices, and separations—as structured by whiteness—impact the contestation and negotiation of meaning-making processes in the production and consumption of NASCAR space(s) for Black fans. It was through that vantage point that the participants demonstrated a nuanced understanding of whiteness, particularly through an awareness of NASCAR as a White space, how to effectively navigate such a White space, and a contextualization of more recent enactments of whiteness within these spaces. To explore and define Black individuals’ racialized experiences and movements as NASCAR fans from their perspective, this article uses a qualitative approach as grounded in narrative inquiry. Thus, findings demonstrate how Black fans make meaning of whiteness within the geographies of NASCAR, which advances theoretical understandings of how whiteness is perceived and represented in the Black imagination. Informed by Southern regional identity and the navigation of White space, these representations of whiteness as exclusive, fearful, and possessive are made salient through NASCAR’s attachment to racialized cultural values.
Histories of stilt-walking in the Landes de Gascogne reveal intertwinements between mobility politics and landscape modernization. Reading these stories through a lens of “landscape conquest” centers the ongoing presence of coloniality in modernity, while highlighting the ways in which modernization produces homogeneity. This process of making every place more like anywhere else is more-than-physical. Universal landscape features, including universal mobility cultures, reproduce universal ways of thinking and relating. This depauperation enables the continual conquest of natural, cultural, epistemological, and phenomenological diversity. Conversely, landscape diversification, including the diversification of mobility cultures, could support abundant futures.
Mobilities scholars have shown how injustices may arise from forced movement or stillness. However, with notable exceptions, these studies tend to collapse analyses of race into a simplistic binary of immobility as an inherent characteristic of non-white people and the possibility of movement as only granted to white people. In this article, I call for an expanded approach that is inclusive of both the controlling forces of white supremacy and life-affirming resistance against and despite these constraints. Drawing from Black studies and Black Geographies, I argue for a more unified Black mobilities research agenda.
After the election of President Trump in 2016, Muslim Americans were increasingly targeted by Islamophobia in a range of spaces, restricting Muslim American mobility within and across public spaces. Yet, little is known about how Muslims actively negotiate, resist, subvert and survive their compromised mobilities. Analysis of data from twenty-eight (28) interviews conducted in 2017 in the San Francisco Bay Area, United States (US), is framed around concepts drawn from the literatures on the geographies of Islamophobia and anti-racism mobilities. We found that young Muslim Americans devised and deployed a range of anti-racism mobilities that were social, embodied, technological, and a combination of all three. We argue that the 2016 election was a key context that has worked to shape counter-mobility efforts of Muslim Americans. Such context is critical in shaping the spaces and places of counter-mobilities.
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O racismo é um fenômeno sociocultural que tem notável expressão nos campos esportivos. O objetivo desta pesquisa foi analisar a produção científica internacional sobre o racismo nos esportes profissionais publicada entre 2008 e 2018. A busca foi realizada em duas bases de dados: Portal da Capes e revistas indexadas na área de avaliação “Educação Física” da Plataforma Sucupira. Foram selecionados 65 artigos os quais são analisados a partir das categorias “injúria racial” e “racismo institucional”. Vários casos de injúria racial são analisados e ilustram formas como o racismo tem colocado obstáculos às trajetórias de atletas negros em diversas modalidades. No plano institucional, são analisadas campanhas contra o racismo, bem como formas racistas de discriminação presentes em esportes como futebol, basquete, beisebol e futebol americano. Destacam-se a variedade de enfoques, a relevância dos estudos e a importância da temática para o enfrentamento do racismo nos campos esportivos estudados.
The Green Book, a Jim Crow era travel guide created by African-Americans for African-Americans, has received much recent popular and academic scrutiny. Consisting of almost 30 editions published between 1936 and 1966, the Green Book features thousands of addresses for businesses that catered to African-Americans during a period of institutionalized discrimination and segregation. Use of the guide allowed for safe travel by black travelers through hostile areas of the United States as it provided escape from harassment and potential violence instigated by unwelcoming shopkeepers and patrons. As a tool of resistance developed to spatially subvert white supremacy, the many editions of the Green Book provide a kind of road map that can reveal black geographies previously forgotten by hegemonic knowledge structures. However, despite this recognized social and historical importance, few studies have investigated the spatial data contained within the pages of the guidebook, or more broadly, the spaces of black geographies. This chapter seeks to fill this gap by understanding how the text of the Green Book can be read through the epistemologies of black geographies and critical geographic information science (GIS). Simultaneously, it provides insights into the geography of African-American travel patterns during an era of state-sponsored discrimination. This study embraces technological advances since the time of the Green Book’s publication to visually map spatial data published during the Jim Crow era to demonstrate how the study of black geographies may benefit from the use of critical GIS and texts such as the Green Book. Using a case study of New Orleans, Louisiana (USA), the author shows how the Green Book can be read to reveal how shifts in American racial politics, from overt segregation in the 1930s to racial liberalization in the 1960s, led to shifts in the spaces associated with African-American travel. By comparing the spatial data of the Green Book to historical census data, trends in urban neighborhood composition can explain how and why African-American travel patterns shifted within the case city. Furthermore, such mapping reveals the complex networks of spaces developed by black Americans to live within a segregationist society while actively resisting discrimination through the construction of counter-public spaces. Finally, this chapter demonstrates how historical texts, including guidebooks, can be used to provide insights into the historical geography of a largely understudied population, African-American travelers.
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Using one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last public pronouncements as a foundation, we argue that access to public transportation is an important civil right in the United States and that public transportation continues to have a direct bearing on economic opportunities of poor people of color as well as their general right to the city and its many spaces and place-based resources. Almost fifty years since King’s assassination, public transportation systems also continue to be important arenas for reinforcing but also challenging racism and discrimination. This paper, written by geographers and a community activist, connects the broader African American experience to a critical understanding of the racialized politics of mobility. Through a case study of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we argue that a contemporary challenge facing many communities is not just one of getting equitable access to public transportation or planning transport in a more opportunity-producing way, but the contemporary situation is even more dire as activists fight simply to keep public transportation a reality in cities across the United States. © 2015 University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.
Full-text available
Running is a unique form of mobility because while it involves traveling over distance, it is not usually done as a means of transportation. Although running can and does take place almost anywhere, bringing together hundreds or thousands of runners at a time via an event known as a road race enables a different, transgressive occupation of space that no one runner could accomplish on his or her own. In this paper, based on participant observation, I argue that the transgressive but sanctioned nature of the mobilities that road races allow, by temporarily taking over a space devoted to motorized vehicles and turning it into a space for pedestrians, defines these events as unique moments that are only possible through the collective nature of this usually solitary form of mobility and that allow for the pleasure of being transgressive without the risks that transgression normally entails. The paper further argues for considering ‘event mobilities’ as more than traveling in order to participate in an event, because some kinds of mobility are only possible in the context of an event.
In this history of the stock car racing circuit known as NASCAR, Daniel Pierce offers a revealing new look at the sport from its postwar beginnings on Daytona Beach and Piedmont dirt tracks through the early 1970s when the sport spread beyond its southern roots and gained national recognition. Following NASCAR founder Big Bill France from his start as a mechanic, Real NASCAR details the sport's genesis as it has never been shown before. Pierce not only confirms the popular notion of NASCAR's origins in bootlegging, but also establishes beyond a doubt the close ties between organized racing and the illegal liquor industry, a story that readers will find both fascinating and controversial. Drawing on the memories of a variety of participants--including highly colorful characters like Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Gober Sosebee, Smokey Yunick, Bunky Knudsen, Humpy Wheeler, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, and Big Bill France himself--Real NASCAR shows how the reputation for wildness of these racers-by-day and bootleggers-by-night drew throngs of spectators to the tracks in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. They came to watch their heroes maneuver ordinary automobiles at incredible speed, beating and banging on each other, wrecking spectacularly, and fighting out their differences in the infield. Although France faced many challenges--including a fickle Detroit that often seemed unsure of its support for the sport, safety issues that killed star drivers and threatened its very existence, and drivers who twice tried to unionize to gain a bigger piece of the NASCAR pie--by the early 1970s France and his allies had laid a firm foundation for what has become today a billion-dollar industry and arguably the largest spectator sport in America. © 2010 the university of north carolina press. All rights reserved.
This paper explores the third-world left in Los Angeles, from 1968-1978. In it I examine the political ideology and foci of one organization for each of the major racial/ethnic groups of the time: African Americans (Black Panther Party), Chicanas/os (El Centro de Accion Social y Autonomo [CASA]), and Japanese Americans (East Wind). In addition to reclaiming this relatively unknown history, I seek to explain the differences in the various organizations by analyzing them within the context of differential racialization. I argue that the distinct nature of each organization is at least partly due to the particular racial position of each racial/ethnic group within the local racial order.
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) is one of the most important figures in the history of American landscape architecture, conservation, and planning. Before he stumbled accidentally onto a career in park design, however, Olmsted was a dilettante gentleman farmer, social critic, and reformist man of letters. This paper considers the intellectual development of the early Olmsted by following his 1850 trip to England. It draws on two reservoirs of evidence: the documentary material in Olmsted's first book, Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England; and an experiment in historical geographical fieldwork undertaken by duplicating Olmsted's trip in May 2011. The essay argues that situating the ‘early Olmsted’ firmly within the intellectual history of antebellum social reform necessitates an interpretation of Olmsted's bourgeois republican radicalism which has been deemphasized in canonical histories of landscape architecture. It furthermore explores the category of mobility as an analytic and methodological tool, engaging with Olmsted's field practices in order to interrogate landscape as a experiential site of social and historical interpretation. Finally, it argues for the intellectual productivity of a fundamental tension between corporeality and transcendence intrinsic to the experience of landscape, a tension metaphorized within the very title ‘Walks and Talks.’
List of Figures. Acknowledgments. A Critical Introduction. Part I: The Politics of Culture:. Part II: The Political Landscape:. Part III: Cultural Politics:. Conclusion: Cultural Rights, Cultural Justice, Cultural Geography. Bibliography. Index
Sport is among the most potent institutions in the production, maintenance and contestation of race in the modern world. The last decade has witnessed a significant increase of sport-based research on the cutting edge of theorizing race and racism in the post-civil rights, post-colonial era. Nonetheless, the study of sport has yet to be seriously engaged by mainstream social scientists. This paper argues that sport scholars need to better demonstrate the powerful, even irreducible racial significance of sport in politics, public policy and popular culture. This argument is illustrated and elaborated with findings from an ongoing, multifaceted research project on midnight basketball in the USA. Key points include: the complexity of racial imagery in and around sport; sport's legitimating functions for racialized neo-liberalism; and the impact of sport and race politics on federal crime policy. Revealed throughout is a more sophisticated understanding of the centrality and complexity of contemporary racial formations.