How people of color found a different kind of opportunity on historic Route 66

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, March 24, 2023 - 10:50am
Updated: Friday, March 24, 2023 - 1:26pm

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Route 66 sign along a highway against a desert sunset with mountains in the distance
Getty Images
U.S. Highway 66 is popularly known as Route 66 or the Mother Road.

When we think about Route 66, most of us think about the song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” — or the iconic sign, maybe Americana memorabilia, the Mother Road. It has long been a nostalgic symbol of American opportunity and Western expansion.

But for many people of color who made their lives along the historic route, it was a different story. Not a bad story, necessarily, but a different one.

Ricardo Guthrie is an associate professor of Social Justice at Fisk University and the former director of Northern Arizona University’s Ethnic Studies Program in Flagstaff, which sits along the Mother Road. Now, he and his colleague Gretchen McAllister have received a nearly $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Landmarks of American History and Culture to launch a new project called “Racialized Spaces on Route 66.”

With it, the team will create a professional development program for K-12 teachers to help them reframe the way we think — and teach — about Route 66.

The Show spoke with Guthrie more about it.

Ricardo Guthrie
NAU Ethnic Studies
Ricardo Guthrie

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