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“Black Like Me disabused the idea that minorities were acting out of paranoia,” says Gerald And what he went through gave the book a remarkable sincerity.”. Black Like Me [John Howard Griffin, Robert Bonazzi] on “Black Like Me is a moving and troubling book written by an accomplished novelist. Black Like Me, the book in question, had been published three years earlier in November and it had led to its author being both venerated.

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Black Like Me, first published in , is a nonfiction book by white journalist John Howard Griffin recounting his journey in the Deep South of the United States. Start by marking “Black Like Me” as Want to Read: In , journalist John Howard Griffin decided to change his skin colour in order to see what life was really like for Blacks in the southern US. John Howard Griffin was a journalist who decided to “cross the line”. The result was a bestselling book called Black Like Me, which is still regarded as an American classic. Griffin wanted to test the claim that.

Once there, under the care of a dermatologist, Griffin underwent a regimen of large oral doses of the anti- vitiligo drug methoxsalen , and spending up to fifteen hours daily under an ultraviolet lamp. Don Rutledge traveled with him, documenting the experience with photos. He became accustomed everywhere to the "hate stare" received from whites. After he disguised himself, many people who knew Griffin as a white man did not recognize him. Sterling Williams, a black shoeshine man in the French Quarter whom Griffin regarded as a casual friend, did not recognize him.

But Griffin, a novelist of extraordinary empathy rooted in his Catholic faith, had devised a daring experiment. To comprehend the lives of black people, he had darkened his skin to become black. As the civil rights movement tested various forms of civil disobedience, Griffin began a human odyssey through the South, from New Orleans to Atlanta. Griffin revealed that what they were saying was true.

It took someone from outside coming in to do that. And what he went through gave the book a remarkable sincerity.

Still assigned in many high schools, it is condensed in online outlines and video reviews on YouTube. But does the book mean the same in the age of Obama as it did in the age of Jim Crow?

Nearly forgotten is the remarkable man who crossed cultures, tested his faith and triumphed over physical setbacks that included blindness and paralysis. He would always recall the day his grandfather slapped him for using a common racial epithet of the era. When he told an informer of a plan to help a family escape, his name turned up on a Nazi death list. The experience was revealing.

Black Like Me

Over the next decade, he converted to Catholicism, began giving lectures on Gregorian chants and music history, married and had the first of four children.

He also published two novels based on his wartime experience. Then in , spinal malaria paralyzed his legs. Griffin sat on a park bench and a white man on a seat opposite got up, walked over and politely advised him that he should leave.

Book review: “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin

The fellow was a well-mannered bigot. There was a great deal of eroticisation of African-Americans.

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When hitchhiking, Griffin found that white male drivers ignored him in the daylight yet picked him up in the dark. They asked questions that disturbed him greatly: When working as a shoeshine boy, Griffin noticed that the friendlier a white customer was then the more likely he was to ask if there are any prostitutes working in the area.

Every black man was seen as a potential source of sexual transgression. And Griffin discovered that the victims of abuse can start to regard themselves as deserving of abuse.

Riding on a bus, he encountered a young man who, because he was comparatively light skinned, thought he was superior to his darker kin: His expression twisted to a sneer when he reached the back and surveyed the Negroes. He sat sideways in an empty seat across the aisle from me and began to harangue two brothers behind him. The story indicates that one of the successes of segregation was to make black Americans feel inferior, to encourage them to think that all they deserved was a seat at the back of the bus.

If there is a single reason why the incidence of crime or illegitimacy is unusually high among African-Americans today, it might be that racism can be so pervasive and oppressive that it eventually makes its prejudices come true. That, at least, offers one explanation for the behaviour of the young black men killed apparently resisting arrest in Another is anger at constantly being the source of suspicion.

Black like me book

Black Like Me helped to raise awareness of the evils of segregation and with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Right acts in the mid-Sixties, it seemed for a while as if America was ready to confront that evil. Griffin died in after suffering complications from diabetes - not, as rumour had it, as a result of the treatments he'd used to prepare for Black Like Me. He had recognised the falseness of his own experiment. A white man disguised as black could not understand the insecurities and resentments that came with hundreds of years of inherited slavery — nor did he have the right to lecture black people on the need for love and reconciliation.

White people had a role to play in civil rights, but it had to be as allies rather than leaders.

Black Like Me, 50 Years Later | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian

The movement needed to be for black people, by black people. This issue is at the heart of a debate about the movie Selma, too. I pressed back against a wall, I could expect no pity, no mercy. They approached slowly and I could not escape them. Griffin, remember, was a white man.

Yet, after less than a month with his skin darkened, he was having a recurring nightmare about a threatening mob of white men and women.

Some questions I am certain that African-Americans, then and now, would find many ways in which Black Like Me is lacking. I am certain that it must have rankled African-Americans to have this account of a white man pretending to be black become a huge hit.

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It was a bestseller in when first published, and it still sells well today. Why would whites need to hear from one of their own what it felt like to be black in America?

The answer to that question is racism. Even among the more open-minded whites in the s, the testimony of a white man would have carried more weight. An account by a black women or man would have been easy for many whites to dismiss as exaggerated or sensationalized. What sort of Black Like Me might have been written if someone had conducted the same experiment in the North?

Rereading: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

It would have been different, but how much? The North was racist in its own way in those years. Indeed, I should make it clear that, from my own work researching and writing about race relations for the Chicago Tribune and other publications over a period of more than four decades, I know that racism remains strong in the South and in the North.