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After John Howard Griffin's escape from Nazi-occupied France, he was shipped to the South Pacific, where he was stationed as an isolated observer in the Solomon Islands. That experience led to his second novel, Nuni (1956). As in his first novel, The Devil Rides Outside, an American professor is confronted by an alien reality. In Nuni, that reality is a "primitive," almost Neolithic society. Yet, the professor's intellectual accomplishments are useless here, his place in both family and civilized society meaningless. He learns to cope, not so much in terms of survival as in finding a new meaning to his life. The Chicago Tribune described Nuni as "an extraordinarily interesting account of a white man's life in a savage island village of the Pacificthe greater part of the novel is concerned with the growth in the narrator, a knowledge of as well as affection for the curiously innocent people." The Dallas Times-Herald wrote: "The two greatest novels of the past decade are William Faulkner's A Fable, and John Howard Griffin's Nuni."
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Excellent book, a profound look at racial issues Griffin experienced while assimilating himself as a black man in the South, 1952.more
As most everybody should already know, a man named John Griffin disguised himself as a black person and traveled around the Deep South late in 1959. He was able to intimately understand the divide people are faced with on both sides. He completely immersed himself in his role, thinking, feeling and experiencing everything as a black man. His writing is very insightful and so sad. Having been born in 1981 and having lived in Minnesota my whole life, I have never really understood what this situation in our country was like. Though we have made great strides towards equality and justice, there are still folks down where my dad lives in South Carolina that have similar attitudes to the whites encountered by Griffin in his book. Each generation gets a little better, and I agree with Griffin's point that it is only through education, knowledge, empathy and love that this shameful attitude can be completely demolished. This is an important book, even still today, for everyone to read. It reminds us that those times were not long ago and that there is still work to be done in this arena.more
Interesting book. I would like to know more about the drug he took to turn black. The book is a little dated but has merit.more
John Griffin dyes and medicates himself black before plunging into the Jim Crow South of 1960. His experiences as a black man - and a white - inform this book, which remains remarkable, though not astonishing, some fifty years later.Of course, the idea of a white person trying to appropriate black experience in this way would set teeth on edge in 2011 - and rightly so. But postmodernism and its effect on political discourse and sociology was still inchoate. Griffin is motivated from a sympathy for the plight of "the Negro" and also curiousity as to the difference between black and white in the south.The gulf proves far wider than he could imagine, in all its dehumanising, destructive power. It's quite interesting: the genre of 'undercover journalist' is extremely common these days, but beyond a few writers like George Orwell and Jack London, Griffin had no real template to follow and his prose eschews the factual, reportage-based journalese we've come to expect from these books. Rather, it's a heady, ardent fever-dream.This gives the book an almost nightmarish quality - Griffin isn't simply slapping on a mask, he is transforming his identity, literally and figuratively, and it accompanies an horrific transformation in the South as he had previously experienced it. In this respect, the book reads like a kind of descent into the underworld; there is an almost mythic quality to Griffin's experiment and Black Like Me abounds with fearsome monsters and villains, and titanic heroes.But it's all - amazingly, horrifyingly - real. I don't want to imply there is nothing more to this book than an impressionistic grand guignol - Griffin does document the daily, myriad struggles he faces as a black man, and he often does it without hyperbole. He doesn't need to; it speaks for itself.There are some weaknesses, however. The trail-blazing nature of the book necessarily means some missteps, and Griffin is over-eager to ascribe motivations and thoughts to his "fellow" Negroes, the antagonistic whites, and the other people he comes across. Yet the experience still speaks for itself. Griffin's willingness to immolate his own identity and privilege in order to highlight a terrible injustice is admirable, and difficult to ignore. It's not often that a book is so much more than the sum of its parts. Even if you think find this slim volume disappointing, or too light on facts and heavy on emotion, it transcends these textual quibbles. Black Like Me is fascinating, educational, disturbing and actually quite uplifting in a way, as book. But as an historical document - both as a seminal step in a genre, a powerful record of institutionalised racism, and a resounding clarion call to whites not in or aware of the then-nascent civil rights movement, it is in a class of its own.more
I am not really sure I can 'rate' this book at this point in my life. I would imagine it would be rather outdated though perhaps the writing itself has held up? I do know that I read it in high school and it greatly influenced my view of race (doesn't exist, though ethnicity does, as well as bigotry and prejudice), US history and justice. It was a great book to have thrown at a kid and I appreciate having been struck by it.more
This is a non-fiction work detailing the experiences of a middle-aged white man (like myself) who posed convincingly as a black man in the southern United States, prior to the civil rights movement. Prior to reading this, I'd seen an Oprah episode where a young white man named Josh Solomon who was inspired by this work had tried the same procedure of skin-altering drugs and disguise but didn't last a week. John Griffin, journalist and author, endured a full six weeks in the deep south in 1959. His advantage was the full knowledge that his society was blatantly and openly racist. It wasn't his task to determine if racism existed. He was on a mission to experience it, the ultimate walk in another's shoes, and to learn how it can be endured.The author writes with penetrating insight, doing his best (and admirably so) to frame explanations in addition to relating events. Many of his explanations for the behaviours he witnesses feel spot-on, brilliant, and well backed-up by the examples. There were many quotable discoveries like this for me throughout. I found an enormous amount of clarity shed on the double-edged sword of racism, and on the insults that can be generated by statements a white man might mistakenly view as innocuous. The epilogue paints the story of the 1960s (before my time) more clearly than anything I've read before, leading into the "separation" approach that finally achieved real progress.I was taken by how consuming Mr. Griffin's new identity was for him, how within just a matter of days it controlled his psyche to the point where he had difficulty framing any thought as a white man would. Picked up by a white friend for a brief escape from his experiment, he writes "I was embarrassed to ride in the front seat of the car with a white man, especially on our way to his home." This was at night with no witnesses, and still he felt this as a result of his new persona and all the oppression that swiftly came with it.The saddest episodes occurred whenever white people were confronted by their own contradictions and became belligerent or affronted rather than learn anything. Either they sensed the danger in questioning anything that would place them against the white mainstream, or couldn't face recasting their entire lifetime's behaviour in a very bad light.The events of this book took place just as Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement started rolling. It's a capturing of the world which that movement was trying to change. But however much things have changed since, in many sad respects they remain the same. What most of us see today on the surface is not as obvious as what Mr. Griffin experienced, but (as the young man on Oprah discovered) much still lies beneath. This is a must-read book for confronting and examining these truths.more
Chilling stuff...such a powerful book! Don't know what else to say, except READ IT!more
A book for people who are interested in the old days when racism was very harsh. A very realistic book, and it is very descriptive. I strongly recommend this book to teenagers and people who are into history. Reading this book you can find almost every bit of information what was happening.more
White male writer in the 50s undergoes treatment to look black and travels to the US South to see what it is like to be black in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana. It's thoughtful and well-written, and does teach new things. (At least to me.) Recommended.more
Brave, chilling, and honest. When John Howard Griffin sets out to discover the truth about racism in the deep south in the late 50's, the results of his daring experiment would become a literary sensation around the world. As you read, you can't help but wonder what the results of such an experiment would be today. While there can be no doubt we've made great progress in the last 50 years, this book also serves as a reminder that we've still got a long way to go. A great read for today, and a great reminder of who we were as a people half a century ago. I strongly recommend it.more
This book is almost fifty years old, but it is still a revelation -- at least to an elderly white liberal like myself. I can remember the South in the 1950's, and what Griffin did took enormous courage. That produced a view from the other side that no white person could have had, then or now. And it also makes vividly clear the deep evil of racism -- of not treating another person as a human being. What is encouraging is the progress that has been made since he wrote: what's discouraging is the gap that still exists. Griffin's style is straight reportage, plus editorial comments, in a diction that already sounds slightly old fashioned. Should be required reading in high schools across the countrymore
Why does this book earn five stars? Because it was the kickoff book for what we of the 1960s called "the revolution" of the civil rights movement. Griffin writes concisely and laterally about what it feels to be a white man becoming black in the Deep South and the ways that whikte society keep the black people down "in their place", raanging from the companyh store to voter qualification test. Here is a good extract from the book. Armed with the voting rights act, a black man came into the county courthouse to cast his vote for his candidates. He had to take a test to determine his elgibility. Here it is: "Can you recite the fifth paragraph of the U.S. Constitution?" The prospective voter did so. Can youj tell me the presidents from 1840 through 1860, their terms of office, and what they were known for doing while in office? The black man did so. The "tester" then handed the man a newspaper printed in Chinese and asked him to read the lead paragraph of the top story. "I can naot make out the whole paragraph but I can read the headline," the black man said. Incredulous, the white sheriff's deputy said: "What? You can read the headline? What does it say?" "It says," said the black man, "This is one black man who isn't gonna vote in the state of Mississippi this year."more
Fascinating glimpse into a nasty piece of American history. It's difficult to imagine the world that Griffin entered. It's completely unfathomable how people can treat people worse than animals just because of their skin color.I hope the world has come a long way in the 50 years since this "experiment" was undertaken because it was shameful to see what Griffin experienced as a black man.more
The premise of this book was very interesting. I enjoyed the book for the most part. However, I felt that a few times that Griffin kept pretending that he knew what everyone around him was thinking and feeling, so it grew it a little old. I think that if Griffin had stuck more to the facts and less to what he thought other people were thinking, this book would have been better.more
This is a fairly famous book so description wise, I don't think there's much to add. Griffin wanted to have first hand experience of black oppression so, with the aid of certain tanning drugs and skin dye, he darkens the pigment of his skin in order to pass in the African American society. This is the tale of his ordeal.I found this book fascinating. I knew just from lessons in school how bad racism was in the late 50s, so that part didn't surprise me. What was surprising is the contrast Griffin observes between how white people acted around other whites and how they acted around blacks. When he is being verbally attacked by someone, he constantly tries to imagine them in their "other" life. He imagines them tucking their children in, helping a neighbor, hanging out with friends. It really showed how even a person who is ordinarily very kind can have such a dark side to them.This book was also terrifying in the regards in that it shows how close America came to having our own era of mass genocide. Murders of blacks, as many know, were not heavily investigated (if they were looked into at all) and of course, there was the Ku Klux Klan. I did not, however, know that black men were being offered money to get themselves sterilized and stop "the taint". Though not as violent as say, the Nazi era (which Griffin compares this period of America to), it's still startling and frightening in it's own way. I also did not know about "Take Ten", a motto that became frequent among blacks when racism was at its worst. The black population, knowing the hatred of whites was growing to an all time high, began saying this motto to one another on the streets. America then had a population of ten whites to every one black. For every black man (or woman) killed, they reminded each other to kill ten whites to even the score. This truly chilled me to the bone.It really is sad the Griffin did not live past the eighties. I think he would have been extremely proud of us now. We may not have racism totally conquered, but with Barack Obama being our first black present, I would say we've come far.more
The story of a white author who died his skin black and went to live in the south as a black man in 1958, before the civil rights movement took off. Includes an afterward written in 1976.more
So I read this on recommendation from my wife. Here's the true story: Griffin, a white journalist that is working for civil rights, discovers a way to make himself look black for short periods of time. He does this and then travels around the country. This book is a record of his experience, and how the world changed to him when he took on a skin of blackness. It seems a pretty groundbreaking book, though it has become a bit dated, much would probably remain relevant today.more
The premise of Black Like Me is provocative even today: a white journalist medically darkens his skin and travels to the American South to experience what it's like living as a black American there. But this wasn't done in today's world; it was done in 1959, when racial tensions were running very high and some white people were of the view that blacks weren't just foreign, but actually subhuman and animal-like. Griffin actually received death threats after he came out on television with his experiences. His family and his parents both required protection from angry citizens, and his parents ended up moving out of the country to escape the persecution. What is *wrong* with people, that they would attack a journalist for a report such as this: "I have looked diligently for all aspects of 'inferiority' among them and I cannot find them." Or "When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin." Dignity and equality among humankind are neither a threat nor an injustice to anybody, and Griffin's work becomes a catalyst for confronting the baseless cruelty for racial prejudice. An important and emotional bookmore
This is a startling, disturbing and unforgettable book. The closest you can come to walking in another's shoes. Griffin, a white man, darkens his skin and disguises himself to experience life as a black man in the deep South in the late 1950's.His experiences are not just eye opening, but deeply changing. Every American should read this to understand just an inkling of the race dilemna.more
This book holds up surprisingly well after all these years. I've probably read this book five or six times, and each time it still grips me the same way as the first. A chilling tale about a white man experiencing living in the jim crow south of the 50's as a black man, it's both enlightening and tragic.more
This very readable book holds up well despite the nearly five decades that have passed and enormous social changes that have taken place since its writing in 1960. The author's good intentions and sincere concern outweigh occasional slips into paternalism (and, understandably, a sexism that went hand-in-hand with the time in which the book was written). If anything, Griffin's indictment of pre-Civil Rights era racism in the American South reminds us of how far we have yet to go before racial equality is truly achieved.John Howard Griffin, a white writer with keen interest in race relations, decides to undertake a social experiment in which he artifically darkens his skin and travels across the South as a black man, in order to observe the way in which the change in the color of his skin affects the way he is treated, and to understand (as well as a white man could) the life of a black man living in the South of late 1959.In his weakest moments, Griffin strikes a presumptuous paternalistic tone, as when he first dons his black skin and looks into the mirror: "I looked into the mirror and saw reflected nothing of the white John Griffin's past. No, the reflection led back to Africa, back to the shanty and the ghetto, back to the fruitless struggles against the mark of blackness. Suddenly, with almost no mental preparation, no advance hint, it became clear and permeated my whole being" (p. 16). Griffin's words also occasionally (and distractingly) betray the sexism of his era, as when he feels it necessary to refer a female professor of sociology at Spelman College not simply as "Dr. Moreland," but as "Dr. Moreland (Mrs. Charles Moreland)" (p. 136). Overall Griffin does a decent job of avoiding sentimentality and tells us like it was, though now and then he falls into the trap of downplaying disunity among African-Americans and paints a picture of undisturbed harmony between all black people (not unlike the myth of the "Noble Savage" still subscribed to by many regarding American Indians and other non-white races).On the other hand, much of what Griffin says is still true today: "The great danger in the South comes precisely from the fact that the public is not informed. Newspapers shirk notoriously their editorial responsibilities and print what they think their readers want. They lean with the prevailing winds and employ every fallacy of logic in order to editorialize harmoniously with popular prejudices" (p. 134), and "The Negro [sic] does not understand the white any more than the white understands the Negro [sic]" (p. 156). Griffin is at his strongest when he speaks personally and passionately, condemning racism in all its forms, as in his closing words: "If some spark does set the keg afire, it will be a senseless tragedy of ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice -- a holocaust that will drag down the innocent and the right-thinking mass of human beings. Then we will all cry for not having cried for justice long ago" (pp. 156-157).Reading this book is a healthy exercise for anyone wishing to improve their understanding of mid-century race relations in the American South.more
A look at curiosity at its extreme. John Howard Griffin, goes thru a chemical facial change, tranforms into a black man, then journey's to the deeper south only to experience what millions were living with at that time....He didn't last too long with his acquired physical change. Afterwards he went public about his experience and was subsequently threatened with death along with his family who had to move to mexico. A great look at southern living from a different perspective....more
This was not assigned reading for me (I think it was a little too close to home for my high school), but I think it should be assigned reading for high school. Griffin really was taking his life into his own hands. I thought the most remarkable part of the story was the comfort with which some Southern whites explained, defended and encouraged their racist behavior when they were alone with Griffin -- while he was undercover as a black man. This is a breathtaking story and a real must-read.more
A book everyone should read. Loved it!more
I just got done reading this one for the first time since high school, where it was required reading. The scene that always stuck in my mind from my first reading was the poor black mother, after serving her six children slices of the Milky Way bars Griffin has given them, wiping some chocolatey drool off of one of the children's faces and then putting it in her own mouth. Just the description of that one little act drew me further into the story than I had been before. Reading it again, a good 15 years later, more scenes than just that one caught me, such as the shoeshine man feeding the homeless wino. If this book isn't still required reading in high school, it should be.more
A stunning book about a white man passing as black in pre-segregation south. Well written, touching, and a stunningly cruel account of our fellow country men in the south.more
Read all 29 reviews

Reviews

Excellent book, a profound look at racial issues Griffin experienced while assimilating himself as a black man in the South, 1952.more
As most everybody should already know, a man named John Griffin disguised himself as a black person and traveled around the Deep South late in 1959. He was able to intimately understand the divide people are faced with on both sides. He completely immersed himself in his role, thinking, feeling and experiencing everything as a black man. His writing is very insightful and so sad. Having been born in 1981 and having lived in Minnesota my whole life, I have never really understood what this situation in our country was like. Though we have made great strides towards equality and justice, there are still folks down where my dad lives in South Carolina that have similar attitudes to the whites encountered by Griffin in his book. Each generation gets a little better, and I agree with Griffin's point that it is only through education, knowledge, empathy and love that this shameful attitude can be completely demolished. This is an important book, even still today, for everyone to read. It reminds us that those times were not long ago and that there is still work to be done in this arena.more
Interesting book. I would like to know more about the drug he took to turn black. The book is a little dated but has merit.more
John Griffin dyes and medicates himself black before plunging into the Jim Crow South of 1960. His experiences as a black man - and a white - inform this book, which remains remarkable, though not astonishing, some fifty years later.Of course, the idea of a white person trying to appropriate black experience in this way would set teeth on edge in 2011 - and rightly so. But postmodernism and its effect on political discourse and sociology was still inchoate. Griffin is motivated from a sympathy for the plight of "the Negro" and also curiousity as to the difference between black and white in the south.The gulf proves far wider than he could imagine, in all its dehumanising, destructive power. It's quite interesting: the genre of 'undercover journalist' is extremely common these days, but beyond a few writers like George Orwell and Jack London, Griffin had no real template to follow and his prose eschews the factual, reportage-based journalese we've come to expect from these books. Rather, it's a heady, ardent fever-dream.This gives the book an almost nightmarish quality - Griffin isn't simply slapping on a mask, he is transforming his identity, literally and figuratively, and it accompanies an horrific transformation in the South as he had previously experienced it. In this respect, the book reads like a kind of descent into the underworld; there is an almost mythic quality to Griffin's experiment and Black Like Me abounds with fearsome monsters and villains, and titanic heroes.But it's all - amazingly, horrifyingly - real. I don't want to imply there is nothing more to this book than an impressionistic grand guignol - Griffin does document the daily, myriad struggles he faces as a black man, and he often does it without hyperbole. He doesn't need to; it speaks for itself.There are some weaknesses, however. The trail-blazing nature of the book necessarily means some missteps, and Griffin is over-eager to ascribe motivations and thoughts to his "fellow" Negroes, the antagonistic whites, and the other people he comes across. Yet the experience still speaks for itself. Griffin's willingness to immolate his own identity and privilege in order to highlight a terrible injustice is admirable, and difficult to ignore. It's not often that a book is so much more than the sum of its parts. Even if you think find this slim volume disappointing, or too light on facts and heavy on emotion, it transcends these textual quibbles. Black Like Me is fascinating, educational, disturbing and actually quite uplifting in a way, as book. But as an historical document - both as a seminal step in a genre, a powerful record of institutionalised racism, and a resounding clarion call to whites not in or aware of the then-nascent civil rights movement, it is in a class of its own.more
I am not really sure I can 'rate' this book at this point in my life. I would imagine it would be rather outdated though perhaps the writing itself has held up? I do know that I read it in high school and it greatly influenced my view of race (doesn't exist, though ethnicity does, as well as bigotry and prejudice), US history and justice. It was a great book to have thrown at a kid and I appreciate having been struck by it.more
This is a non-fiction work detailing the experiences of a middle-aged white man (like myself) who posed convincingly as a black man in the southern United States, prior to the civil rights movement. Prior to reading this, I'd seen an Oprah episode where a young white man named Josh Solomon who was inspired by this work had tried the same procedure of skin-altering drugs and disguise but didn't last a week. John Griffin, journalist and author, endured a full six weeks in the deep south in 1959. His advantage was the full knowledge that his society was blatantly and openly racist. It wasn't his task to determine if racism existed. He was on a mission to experience it, the ultimate walk in another's shoes, and to learn how it can be endured.The author writes with penetrating insight, doing his best (and admirably so) to frame explanations in addition to relating events. Many of his explanations for the behaviours he witnesses feel spot-on, brilliant, and well backed-up by the examples. There were many quotable discoveries like this for me throughout. I found an enormous amount of clarity shed on the double-edged sword of racism, and on the insults that can be generated by statements a white man might mistakenly view as innocuous. The epilogue paints the story of the 1960s (before my time) more clearly than anything I've read before, leading into the "separation" approach that finally achieved real progress.I was taken by how consuming Mr. Griffin's new identity was for him, how within just a matter of days it controlled his psyche to the point where he had difficulty framing any thought as a white man would. Picked up by a white friend for a brief escape from his experiment, he writes "I was embarrassed to ride in the front seat of the car with a white man, especially on our way to his home." This was at night with no witnesses, and still he felt this as a result of his new persona and all the oppression that swiftly came with it.The saddest episodes occurred whenever white people were confronted by their own contradictions and became belligerent or affronted rather than learn anything. Either they sensed the danger in questioning anything that would place them against the white mainstream, or couldn't face recasting their entire lifetime's behaviour in a very bad light.The events of this book took place just as Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement started rolling. It's a capturing of the world which that movement was trying to change. But however much things have changed since, in many sad respects they remain the same. What most of us see today on the surface is not as obvious as what Mr. Griffin experienced, but (as the young man on Oprah discovered) much still lies beneath. This is a must-read book for confronting and examining these truths.more
Chilling stuff...such a powerful book! Don't know what else to say, except READ IT!more
A book for people who are interested in the old days when racism was very harsh. A very realistic book, and it is very descriptive. I strongly recommend this book to teenagers and people who are into history. Reading this book you can find almost every bit of information what was happening.more
White male writer in the 50s undergoes treatment to look black and travels to the US South to see what it is like to be black in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana. It's thoughtful and well-written, and does teach new things. (At least to me.) Recommended.more
Brave, chilling, and honest. When John Howard Griffin sets out to discover the truth about racism in the deep south in the late 50's, the results of his daring experiment would become a literary sensation around the world. As you read, you can't help but wonder what the results of such an experiment would be today. While there can be no doubt we've made great progress in the last 50 years, this book also serves as a reminder that we've still got a long way to go. A great read for today, and a great reminder of who we were as a people half a century ago. I strongly recommend it.more
This book is almost fifty years old, but it is still a revelation -- at least to an elderly white liberal like myself. I can remember the South in the 1950's, and what Griffin did took enormous courage. That produced a view from the other side that no white person could have had, then or now. And it also makes vividly clear the deep evil of racism -- of not treating another person as a human being. What is encouraging is the progress that has been made since he wrote: what's discouraging is the gap that still exists. Griffin's style is straight reportage, plus editorial comments, in a diction that already sounds slightly old fashioned. Should be required reading in high schools across the countrymore
Why does this book earn five stars? Because it was the kickoff book for what we of the 1960s called "the revolution" of the civil rights movement. Griffin writes concisely and laterally about what it feels to be a white man becoming black in the Deep South and the ways that whikte society keep the black people down "in their place", raanging from the companyh store to voter qualification test. Here is a good extract from the book. Armed with the voting rights act, a black man came into the county courthouse to cast his vote for his candidates. He had to take a test to determine his elgibility. Here it is: "Can you recite the fifth paragraph of the U.S. Constitution?" The prospective voter did so. Can youj tell me the presidents from 1840 through 1860, their terms of office, and what they were known for doing while in office? The black man did so. The "tester" then handed the man a newspaper printed in Chinese and asked him to read the lead paragraph of the top story. "I can naot make out the whole paragraph but I can read the headline," the black man said. Incredulous, the white sheriff's deputy said: "What? You can read the headline? What does it say?" "It says," said the black man, "This is one black man who isn't gonna vote in the state of Mississippi this year."more
Fascinating glimpse into a nasty piece of American history. It's difficult to imagine the world that Griffin entered. It's completely unfathomable how people can treat people worse than animals just because of their skin color.I hope the world has come a long way in the 50 years since this "experiment" was undertaken because it was shameful to see what Griffin experienced as a black man.more
The premise of this book was very interesting. I enjoyed the book for the most part. However, I felt that a few times that Griffin kept pretending that he knew what everyone around him was thinking and feeling, so it grew it a little old. I think that if Griffin had stuck more to the facts and less to what he thought other people were thinking, this book would have been better.more
This is a fairly famous book so description wise, I don't think there's much to add. Griffin wanted to have first hand experience of black oppression so, with the aid of certain tanning drugs and skin dye, he darkens the pigment of his skin in order to pass in the African American society. This is the tale of his ordeal.I found this book fascinating. I knew just from lessons in school how bad racism was in the late 50s, so that part didn't surprise me. What was surprising is the contrast Griffin observes between how white people acted around other whites and how they acted around blacks. When he is being verbally attacked by someone, he constantly tries to imagine them in their "other" life. He imagines them tucking their children in, helping a neighbor, hanging out with friends. It really showed how even a person who is ordinarily very kind can have such a dark side to them.This book was also terrifying in the regards in that it shows how close America came to having our own era of mass genocide. Murders of blacks, as many know, were not heavily investigated (if they were looked into at all) and of course, there was the Ku Klux Klan. I did not, however, know that black men were being offered money to get themselves sterilized and stop "the taint". Though not as violent as say, the Nazi era (which Griffin compares this period of America to), it's still startling and frightening in it's own way. I also did not know about "Take Ten", a motto that became frequent among blacks when racism was at its worst. The black population, knowing the hatred of whites was growing to an all time high, began saying this motto to one another on the streets. America then had a population of ten whites to every one black. For every black man (or woman) killed, they reminded each other to kill ten whites to even the score. This truly chilled me to the bone.It really is sad the Griffin did not live past the eighties. I think he would have been extremely proud of us now. We may not have racism totally conquered, but with Barack Obama being our first black present, I would say we've come far.more
The story of a white author who died his skin black and went to live in the south as a black man in 1958, before the civil rights movement took off. Includes an afterward written in 1976.more
So I read this on recommendation from my wife. Here's the true story: Griffin, a white journalist that is working for civil rights, discovers a way to make himself look black for short periods of time. He does this and then travels around the country. This book is a record of his experience, and how the world changed to him when he took on a skin of blackness. It seems a pretty groundbreaking book, though it has become a bit dated, much would probably remain relevant today.more
The premise of Black Like Me is provocative even today: a white journalist medically darkens his skin and travels to the American South to experience what it's like living as a black American there. But this wasn't done in today's world; it was done in 1959, when racial tensions were running very high and some white people were of the view that blacks weren't just foreign, but actually subhuman and animal-like. Griffin actually received death threats after he came out on television with his experiences. His family and his parents both required protection from angry citizens, and his parents ended up moving out of the country to escape the persecution. What is *wrong* with people, that they would attack a journalist for a report such as this: "I have looked diligently for all aspects of 'inferiority' among them and I cannot find them." Or "When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin." Dignity and equality among humankind are neither a threat nor an injustice to anybody, and Griffin's work becomes a catalyst for confronting the baseless cruelty for racial prejudice. An important and emotional bookmore
This is a startling, disturbing and unforgettable book. The closest you can come to walking in another's shoes. Griffin, a white man, darkens his skin and disguises himself to experience life as a black man in the deep South in the late 1950's.His experiences are not just eye opening, but deeply changing. Every American should read this to understand just an inkling of the race dilemna.more
This book holds up surprisingly well after all these years. I've probably read this book five or six times, and each time it still grips me the same way as the first. A chilling tale about a white man experiencing living in the jim crow south of the 50's as a black man, it's both enlightening and tragic.more
This very readable book holds up well despite the nearly five decades that have passed and enormous social changes that have taken place since its writing in 1960. The author's good intentions and sincere concern outweigh occasional slips into paternalism (and, understandably, a sexism that went hand-in-hand with the time in which the book was written). If anything, Griffin's indictment of pre-Civil Rights era racism in the American South reminds us of how far we have yet to go before racial equality is truly achieved.John Howard Griffin, a white writer with keen interest in race relations, decides to undertake a social experiment in which he artifically darkens his skin and travels across the South as a black man, in order to observe the way in which the change in the color of his skin affects the way he is treated, and to understand (as well as a white man could) the life of a black man living in the South of late 1959.In his weakest moments, Griffin strikes a presumptuous paternalistic tone, as when he first dons his black skin and looks into the mirror: "I looked into the mirror and saw reflected nothing of the white John Griffin's past. No, the reflection led back to Africa, back to the shanty and the ghetto, back to the fruitless struggles against the mark of blackness. Suddenly, with almost no mental preparation, no advance hint, it became clear and permeated my whole being" (p. 16). Griffin's words also occasionally (and distractingly) betray the sexism of his era, as when he feels it necessary to refer a female professor of sociology at Spelman College not simply as "Dr. Moreland," but as "Dr. Moreland (Mrs. Charles Moreland)" (p. 136). Overall Griffin does a decent job of avoiding sentimentality and tells us like it was, though now and then he falls into the trap of downplaying disunity among African-Americans and paints a picture of undisturbed harmony between all black people (not unlike the myth of the "Noble Savage" still subscribed to by many regarding American Indians and other non-white races).On the other hand, much of what Griffin says is still true today: "The great danger in the South comes precisely from the fact that the public is not informed. Newspapers shirk notoriously their editorial responsibilities and print what they think their readers want. They lean with the prevailing winds and employ every fallacy of logic in order to editorialize harmoniously with popular prejudices" (p. 134), and "The Negro [sic] does not understand the white any more than the white understands the Negro [sic]" (p. 156). Griffin is at his strongest when he speaks personally and passionately, condemning racism in all its forms, as in his closing words: "If some spark does set the keg afire, it will be a senseless tragedy of ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice -- a holocaust that will drag down the innocent and the right-thinking mass of human beings. Then we will all cry for not having cried for justice long ago" (pp. 156-157).Reading this book is a healthy exercise for anyone wishing to improve their understanding of mid-century race relations in the American South.more
A look at curiosity at its extreme. John Howard Griffin, goes thru a chemical facial change, tranforms into a black man, then journey's to the deeper south only to experience what millions were living with at that time....He didn't last too long with his acquired physical change. Afterwards he went public about his experience and was subsequently threatened with death along with his family who had to move to mexico. A great look at southern living from a different perspective....more
This was not assigned reading for me (I think it was a little too close to home for my high school), but I think it should be assigned reading for high school. Griffin really was taking his life into his own hands. I thought the most remarkable part of the story was the comfort with which some Southern whites explained, defended and encouraged their racist behavior when they were alone with Griffin -- while he was undercover as a black man. This is a breathtaking story and a real must-read.more
A book everyone should read. Loved it!more
I just got done reading this one for the first time since high school, where it was required reading. The scene that always stuck in my mind from my first reading was the poor black mother, after serving her six children slices of the Milky Way bars Griffin has given them, wiping some chocolatey drool off of one of the children's faces and then putting it in her own mouth. Just the description of that one little act drew me further into the story than I had been before. Reading it again, a good 15 years later, more scenes than just that one caught me, such as the shoeshine man feeding the homeless wino. If this book isn't still required reading in high school, it should be.more
A stunning book about a white man passing as black in pre-segregation south. Well written, touching, and a stunningly cruel account of our fellow country men in the south.more
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