Black Like Me
From the book Jacket:
John Howard Griffin undertook in the fall of 1959 a personal assignment to find out the hard way, possibly the only way a white man can, what it is like to be a Negro in the South. He decided to darken his skin and travel through several southern states. Black Like Me is the record, offered in all its crudity and rawness, of this dangerous and often terrifying mission.
Mr. Griffin found a doctor in New Orleans who was willing, with some misgivings, to give him the necessary medication (a drug used in the cure of vitíligo) . By accelerated treatments and the use of a sun lamp, he was able to make the change in five days. From November 7 to December 14 he hitchhiked, walked, and rode the buses through Mississippi, Alabama, back to New Orleans, and finally to Atlanta, living always on the dark side of towns, in rooming houses and cheap hotels. He learned what it was like to search for miles across a city for a glass of water or a bathroom, to buy a ticket, to try to cash a traveler's check. I walk the streets at night as a bald Negro - through a land hostile to
my color, hostile to my skin."
Mississippi and Alabama were a terrison; Atlanta was a ray of hope. '"Atlanta changed my mind. Atlanta has in proving that 'the Problem' can be solved and in showing us the way to do it." It was a far cry from the enlightened leaders, both white and Negro, in the Atlanta city administration to the Mobile plant foreman who said, when asked by the author for a job, "No use trying down here. . . . We're gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We're taking it slow, but we're doing it. Pretty soon we'll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have."
This report is a shocking confirmation of the enormous wall of hostility between the two races, a wall that is growing higher as some groups of Negroes are learning to hate back as viciously as they have been hated by some whites. Mr. Griffin is careful to emphasize the decency and kindness of most Southern whites, and blames institutions rather than individuals for the continuing abrogation of human rights. His book is a document of despair and darkness, but he found light in Georgia and in the hope that keeps Negro leaders from blowing the dangerous situation sky high.
- 1961 John Howard Griffin
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