Black Like Me


John Howard Griffin was a journalist and a specialist on race
issues. After publication, he became a leading advocate in the Civil

Rights Movement and did much to promote awareness of the racial situations
and pass legislature. He was middle aged and living in Mansfield, Texas
at the time of publication in 1960. His desire to know if Southern whites
were racist against the Negro population of the Deep South, or if they
really judged people based on the individual\'s personality as they said
they prompted him to cross the color line and write Black Like Me. Since
communication between the white and African American races did not exist,
neither race really knew what it was like for the other. Due to this,

Griffin felt the only way to know the truth was to become a black man and
travel through the South. His trip was financed by the internationally
distributed Negro magazine Sepia in exchange for the right to print
excerpts from the finished product. After three weeks in the Deep South
as a black man John Howard Griffin produced a 188-page journal covering
his transition into the black race, his travels and experiences in the

South, the shift back into white society, and the reaction of those he
knew prior his experonce the book was published and released.

John Howard Griffin began this novel as a white man on October 28,

1959 and became a black man (with the help of a noted dermatologist) on

November 7. He entered black society in New Orleans through his contact

Sterling, a shoe shine boy that he had met in the days prior to the
medication taking full effect. Griffin stayed with Sterling at the shine
stand for a few days to become assimilated into the society and to learn
more about the attitude and mindset of the common black man. After one
week of trying to find work other than menial labor, he left to travel
throughout the Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas.

November 14, the day he decided to leave, was the day after the

Mississippi jury refused to indict or consider the evidence in the Mack

Parker kidnap-lynch murder case. He decided to go into the heart of

Mississippi, the Southern state most feared by blacks of that time, just
to see if it really did have the "wonderful relationship" with their

Negroes that they said they did. What he found in Hattiesburg was tension
in the state so apparent and thick that it scared him to death. One of
the reasons for this could be attributed to the Parker case decision
because the trial took place not far from Hattiesburg. He knew it was a
threat to his life if he remained because he was not a true Negro and did
not know the proper way to conduct himself in the present situation.

Griffin requested that one of his friends help him leave the state as soon
as possible. P.D. East, Griffin\'s friend, was more than willing to help
his friend out of the dangerous situation that he had gotten himself into
and back to New Orleans.

From New Orleans, traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi and began hitch
hiking toward Mobile, Alabama. Griffin found that men would not pick him
up in the day nearly as often as they would at night. One of the reasons
being that the darkness of night is a protection of sorts and the white
men would let their defenses down. Also, they would not have to be afraid
of someone they knew seeing them with a Negro in their car. But the main
reason was of the stereotypes many of these men had of Negroes, that they
were more sexually active, knew more about sex, had larger genitalia, and
fewer morals and therefore would discuss these things with them. Many of
the whites that offered Griffin rides would become angry and let him out
when he would not discuss his sex life with them. One man was amazed to
find a Negro who spoke intelligently and tried to explain the fallacies
behind the stereotypes and what the problem with Negro society was.

Many Negroes he encountered on his journey through the Deep South
were very kind and opened their hearts and homes to him. One example of
this is when Griffin asked an elderly Negro where he might find lodging,
the man offered to share his own bed with him. Another instance was when

Griffin was stranded somewhere between Mobile and Montgomery and a black
man offered him lodging at his home. The man\'s home was a two-room