HomeUncategorizedSeeing America through the lens of Route 66

Seeing America through the lens of Route 66

Public television programs travel the famed Mother Road


Route 66 is the backdrop for several new programs coming soon to a television or streaming screen near you.

This summer, PBS will present a three-part documentary series, The Great Muslim American Road Trip, which it says is a journey of self-discovery and of the Muslim experience throughout American history, featuring rapper Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins.

“Although they are practicing Muslims — Haydar is Syrian American and Robins converted after meeting Haydar — the couple, like most Americans, are unfamiliar with Islam’s deeps roots in America,” PBS said in a news release. “This road trip is an opportunity for them not only to experience the breathtaking panoramas and iconic roadside attractions that have made Route 66 famous, but also to learn more about the history of their faith and what it means to be Muslim in America today.” 

“PBS is committed to offering content that reflects America’s wide array of communities, cultures and beliefs,” said Sylvia Bugg, chief programming executive at PBS. “In this spirit, we are pleased to share this dynamic couple’s eye-opening journey along iconic Route 66, highlighting the diversity of Muslims in the United States.”

The couple sets off on their trip from Chicago to LA

In the wake of extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Haydar and Robins launched their “Ask a Muslim” project in 2015. More recently, Haydar’s hip-hop anthem, Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab), went viral on YouTube. Robins has a master’s degree in Christian ethics, and is active in civil rights and sustainable farming.

Among the more than dozen stops along the route, the couple visited Muhammed Ali’s daughter Maryam Ali in Chicago, Bosnian immigrants and restaurant owners Sulejman and Emmina Grbic in St. Louis, jazz musician Leon Rollerson in Tulsa, and actor and writer Amir Abdullah in Pasadena, California. 

“Their conversations highlight the deep roots and impact of Islam and Muslims in American history and culture,” PBS noted. “By the end of their memory-making road trip, Haydar and Robins have a better understanding of themselves, their relationship, and the centuries-long Muslim experience in America.

“There are Muslim Americans living and working in major cities and small towns across the country, contributing to society as they have for hundreds of years,” noted series producer Alex Kronemer. “Yet their story, their history, is hardly known. What better way to share this unexpected story than on a road trip across Route 66, the quintessential American experience?”

Faux Windmill built in 1917 by Anheuser-Busch is a landmark in the Bevo Mill section of St. Louis. Route 66 News photo by Paul Sableman

The couple wasn’t the only recent visitors to the Bosnian neighborhood in St. Louis. Route 66 News reports on a BBC Travel story to the Bevo Mill area where an estimated 70,000 Bosnian war refugees settled in the 1990s. The article also features the Grbic Restaurant.

Route 66 News also recently shared word that in March, American Public Television will show Katrina Parks’ documentary, Route 66: The Untold Story of Women on the Mother Road.

Parks told the website that the three-part series “uncovers the extraordinary lives and achievements of women who overcame gender discrimination and segregation to build fulfilling lives for themselves and generations to come on America’s most iconic highway.

“From entrepreneurs to waitresses, from anthropologists to politicians, from artists to military sergeants, these women transformed their communities and the American West for the better through their hard work, perseverance and ingenuity.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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