Black Like Me (50th Anniversary Edition)

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Overview

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

Author Biography: John Howard Griffin ...

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Overview

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

Author Biography: John Howard Griffin was born in 1920 in Dallas, Texas and was educated in France. He served in the U.S. Air Force in the South Pacific, where an injury sustained in a Japanese bombardment led to the loss of his sight for ten years. He is the author of two novels, Nuni and The Devil Rides Outside, as well as a biography of Thomas Merton and numerous other works of nonfiction. He died in 1980.

He trudged southern streets searching for a place where he could eat or rest, looking vainly for a job other than menial labor, feeling the "hate stare." He was John Griffin, a white man who darkened the color of his skin and crossed the line into a country of hate, fear, and hopelessness--the country of the American Black man.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Griffin's (The Devil Rides Outside) mid-century classic on race brilliantly withstands both the test of time and translation to audio format. Concerned by the lack of communication between the races and wondering what "adjustments and discriminations" he would face as a Negro in the Deep South, the late author, a journalist and self-described "specialist in race issues," left behind his privileged life as a Southern white man to step into the body of a stranger. In 1959, Griffin headed to New Orleans, darkened his skin and immersed himself in black society, then traveled to several states until he could no longer stand the racism, segregation and degrading living conditions. Griffin imparts the hopelessness and despair he felt while executing his social experiment, and professional narrator Childs renders this recounting even more immediate and emotional with his heartfelt delivery and skillful use of accents. The CD package includes an epilogue on social progress, written in 1976 by the author, making it suitable for both the classroom and for personal enlightenment. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1959, Griffin, a noted white journalist, decided to try an experiment. He felt that the only way to determine the truth about how African Americans were treated by whites, and to learn if there was discrimination, was to become one. After a series of medical treatments that darkened his skin, he began his travels in the Deep South. Made up primarily of his journal entries during that time, Black Like Me, read by Ray Childs, details the experiences he had while passing for black. He finds that the people who saw him as white days earlier would not give him the time of day. He suffered even more as he rode buses in New Orleans, discovering how whites would no longer sit next to him. Listeners will be fascinated by his bus trip to Mississippi during which the driver would not let any of the African Americans off at a rest stop and how some of the passengers decided to deal with this slight. A fascinating view of life before the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, showing the difficulties of being black in America. For all libraries.-Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-John Howard Griffin's groundbreaking and controversial novel about his experiences as a white man who transforms himself with the aid of medication and dye in order to experience firsthand the life of a black man living in the Deep South in the late 1950s is a mesmerizing tale of the ultimate sociological experiment. Ray Childs' narration is both straightforward and deeply satisfying. A skilled reader, he incorporates different dialects to help listeners distinguish among the various characters. His ability to convey a full spectrum of emotions, including exhilaration, bone deep sadness, and gut wrenching fear is riveting. Equally fascinating is Childs' description of how Griffin's unheard of approach to studying racial discrimination changed his personal life and ignited a storm of argument and discussion around the nation. This recording deserves a place in every public library collection.-Cindy Lombardo, Tuscarawas County Public Library, New Philadelphia, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451234216
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/20/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Anniversar
  • Edition number: 50
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 35,344
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

John Howard Griffin (1920-1980) is known internationally as the author of two novels, Nuni and The Devil Rides Outside, five books and monographs on racism in addition to Black Like Me, a biography of Thomas Merton, three collections of photography, a volume of journals, two historical works on Texas, a musicological study, and The John Howard Reader. Born in Dallas, Texas, and educated in France, he served in the U.S. Air Force in the South Pacific, where an injury he received during a Japanese bombardment eventually resulted in the complete loss of his sight. In the 1950's he converted to Catholicism, married, and raised a family. In 1957, (after ten years of blindness) he miraculously regained his sight.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 141 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(85)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(14)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 141 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    One of the most captivating accounts of the 20th century!

    John Howard Griffin's captivating account Black Like Me has stunned millions over the past 50 years in ways that even the author himself could never have predicted. This jaw-dropping narrative chronicles Griffin's experiences as a black man in the Deep South during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. The book itself began as a simple research project: put forth in order to see how the "other half", of sorts, lived. However, this simple but controversial study of the sociological elements of Southern culture transformed into one of the most argued books of all time. Though Griffin's testimonial is controversial, it still carries an air of blunt truth about it. This striking confession strikes a note with millions, and the millions more who will continue to read it will feel the same emotions as the many before them have.
    Although Black Like Me's most obvious moral is racial tolerance, there are several underlying messages that are just as powerful. When Griffin is first transformed into a black man, he finds that, though he retains his original identity, Southern citizens still treat him differently. From this, we learn that people are the product of their upbringing, and that, at birth; people live in a condition of complete moral purity. However, as they observe their surroundings, the clarity of their persona is clouded, causing the unkind attitudes that result in racism. Also, while staying with a poor black family in the swamps of Mississippi, Griffin discovers the reality of the situation that the United States was trying so persistently to hide. He sees that much of the African American race has no hope of advancement, all due to the oppression forced upon them by the Caucasian sector of the populace. While staying with the family, he observes the beauty of their two children, and how successful they could become if only racism would cease to exist, if only they could escape the toils and troubles of the swamp. He then weeps for them, as he realizes that his own children are capable of doing anything that they set their minds to, just because they are white. This event brings about another important message: that the hate of others can only hurt, and never heal.
    When reading this account, I often sat down the book to digest what I was reading. During these brief pauses, I contemplated reasons why racism became so prominent in the South's lifestyle. Was it just remnants of the attitudes brought about by slavery, or just all of mankind's capable evils set out on display? I believe that, because the book caused me to question why, that the author fulfilled his purpose. Griffin's jaw-dropping account of the terrors of racism in the South brought about feelings of hatred for the evil of mankind in me that I never thought possible. Also, through reading this, I learned the importance of maintaining a state of kindness toward all men; black, white, Latino, Asian, or otherwise, and that the task of spreading awareness is a task for the community, not just for one person. Overall, I believe that this book is one of the finest and most raw pieces of literature that the English language has ever produced, and would openly recommend it to any person longing for a rebirth in culture.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2007

    Black history

    This is a really good book for teens on black history. Its an insight into both racial sides in 1959 from a white man named Griffin who takes the identity of a black man to see what it is like. This book is really interesting and i highly recommend it for teens to read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2006

    An Amazing Story

    'Black Like Me' is a novel about a white journalist, John Howard Griffin, who decides to darken his skin and go undercover to live a life of an African American. As his journey progresses he realizes what it is like to treated so cruel by whites. A major theme of racism is spread throughout the novel. This story proves that whites actually were racist and treated African Americans as they were the scum of the earth. By going undercover Griffin proved that they are human and act just like whites and they are capable and worthy of being treated equally. Another theme was equality. Every experience Griffin went through, he proved that color does not mean anything. People are the same no matter what. Overall I liked reading this book because it allows the reader to learn about the perspective of a man who experienced life from two different points of view. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about racism. It is a good lesson for people to learn that every human being should be treated as an equal.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2005

    Very informative

    'Black Like Me' is a very informative book.It helped me to understand past segregation a little more. The book also helps people to know that all people in the south did not treat blacks poorly, but they did not do anything about it. John Howard Griffin crossed over the line of segregation. Though he could probably not fully grasp the concept of being an African American he tried however, he understood more than most. In my opinion he helped African Americans most white people tried to cover up the racism that exiated in our country. He made those people who belived them aware. If they would not belive a southern black man they would definitly belive a white man who experienced it firsthand. Who changed his pigmentation to become the other half and he knew the truth.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2005

    The truth shall set you free

    This was one of the best books I have ever read!!! It summed up the struggle of African America during the Civil Rights Era and sadly, present day. I have recommended this book to EVERYONE I know.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2012

    John Howard Griffin is a middle-aged newspaper columnist and for

    John Howard Griffin is a middle-aged newspaper columnist and former rancher living in Texas in 1959. Writing in his diary, Griffin, a white man, recounts how he hit upon the startling idea to change his skin color and attempt to experience life as a black man. Griffin consults a dermatologist and after he agrees with himself on going through with the plan he travels to New Orleans and stays at a friend’s house without telling him what he plans to do. Throughout his journey, he travels to get to Mississippi. The main character goes through tough times believing he is black, but as his journey passes he starts to accept it. One of the major conflicts John Griffin goes through is when he tried to buy a bus ticket. What had happen, since how he appeared, black, The Ticket master refused to sell him a ticket. The Ticket master claimed that she didn't sell it to him because she had no change but by the way she spoke to him, the reader can tell she hated john without even knowing him, judging by his complexion.  Beside this many other stores where he had bought while he was white refused to cash his travelers check because of his dark skin, throughout these injustice he kept clam and was civilized. P.D. East, George Levitan, Adele Jackson, Don Rutledge all are minor character who portray that not all whites were mean and brutal to Negroes. Christophe was placed to demonstrate that not all black people fit the stereotype, he was a well-dressed, and who is fawning toward the white passengers, and cynical and condescending toward the blacks with whom he is forced to sit. Now Sterling Williams demonstrates that in general, Negroes are happy, friendly, people who are generous to everyone even strangers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2010

    recommended

    Black Like Me is an awesome autobiography written by John Howard Griffin. In this book he shares with us his experiences of transforming from a white-skinned man, into a dark-skinned Negro. Even though I usually don't like reading books in general, I actually thought this was a very intriguing, touching book. The situations that he encounters with both white and black men and women, and the ups and downs he has to endure, capture and pull you into the book as if you were there with him.
    The one thing that I had a real problem with was getting through the 'long' parts. I am almost positive, that in at least one book you have read there is at least one section you skip because you just don't feel like reading it. Black Like Me tends to have a lot of those. There's the beginning; the first few pages you read seem to go by super slowly, then some parts in the middle, and almost the whole ending. I thought that he often repeated his feelings about Negro discrimination, which after a while was a bit tiring to hear. In my perspective, this was the only downfall to this book.
    This story had many, many lessons toward the 'rights and wrongs' of discrimination. I have to say that my favorite part of the book was when he was invited to stay overnight by a Negro family. The family that he stayed with consisted of a husband, wife, and six children. They were a poor family in dept, with only two bedrooms, and ate cooked beans every night for dinner. He compared how these Negro children acted, with his own children; he concluded that there was no difference than just the pigment in their skin. It saddened him to think that these perfectly capable, bright Negro children have less potential in their future. I thought that there was also a connection between this book and When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago. In When I Was Puerto Rican, she too was discriminated when she moved to America. She wanted to become a movie star, an actor, but because of her looks, ethnicity, and poor background, she too was looked down upon. But this scene from Black Like Me touched me in a very emotional way to just think that what he is experiencing and documenting, it is real.
    I think the reason I like this book so much, is because it gives a sense of what's really happening in the world, even though it was written a few decades ago. I would recommend this book even though there were some difficult parts to read. If you do chose to read it, I hope you liked it as much as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Black Like Me

    I found this book very enlightening and highly suggest it. It kept my in suspense and had a hard time putting it down. This book is well worth the read. Very provocative and touching. Great story!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Unforgettable

    Everyone has heard the saying to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes", well John Griffin literally does this. Black Like Me is a true story about a white man named John Griffin that sets out to conduct a social experiment. In this experiment he darkens his skin with the use of medication and a type of dye to give him the appearance of a black man in the late 1950s in the Deep South. Griffin travels to locations such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia all of which are filled with racial tension. We see Griffin encountering discrimination, prejudice, segregation and horrible living conditions, which he describes in great detail. This book is amazing and everyone should read it. Black Like Me has given me the best picture of life as an African American in the 1950s and none of the history books I have read have painted a picture nearly as well as this book did. I always knew about segregation and acts of prejudice, but to hear Mr. Griffin's reflections of the events that are happening give a description that I have never been able to get before. His story describes his feelings and emotions, which makes it even more personal and more realistic for the reader. Although this social experiment cannot be considered fully accurate because Mr. Griffin was in actuality a white man, it still is a great book and gives greater understanding to the topic of the life of a black man in the 1950s. This is a fast read that keeps your attention throughout and it is definitely one of my favorite books. I recommend this book to everyone!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2008

    I'm reading it again

    This book shaped my thoughts, feelings, ideas--everything--about African-Americans when I read it many years ago. As a Southerner, it helped me see beyond what I was hearing, seeing and experiencing around me. I recommend it for all young people as they begin to build their lives around relationships that will impact them in their careers, families and social lives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    Inspiring!!!

    It makes you realize the horrors that African Americans lived with just because of their skin color. Even today if your skin color is not white[peachy, pasty, or pale] there are people who will judge you. John's book helps readers understand what life was like back then and even what life is like now for some people. It made me wonder, 'if we still lived like that, where would I be in this world?' I have been inspired by John's book to do more with my life and to keep an open mind when it comes to people[whites,blacks,hispanics,and other races].

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2007

    Valorous

    I read this book many years ago and I am truly grateful that a person would even consider doing such an experiment. Mr. Griffin proved that racism existed at a time when most whites questioned whether or not blacks were making this stuff up. I do believe that Mr. Griffin was also battling his own racial demons and he bravely went into battle. He won. The fight continues.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2006

    To walk in another man's shoes

    It is said one cannot understand or empathize with someone else unless 'you walk in his or her shoes.' John Howard Griffin did just that, darkened his skin and took a walk into the Deep South to see how it would feel to be a member of a despised minority during 1959, the height of the Jim Crow years, when water fountains and rest rooms were separate for the races, when a black man or woman couldn't eat in a restaurant or get a hotel room. He suffers the indignity of finding everyday tasks like these almost insurmountable. Daily he experiences the cruel racial divide of the South and realizes that racism is as rampant as rumored. Without ceasing Griffin reveals the truth of Prejudice, by exposing the hidden mask of tolerance. Griffin uses an excellent blend of facts and personal experiences to premise the question of identity as it relates to race. As this theme deepens so does the internal need for Griffin too disclose the elements of racism. This force calls him to shed off his white identity and transform into a black man. I¿m much obliged to confess this novel helped me to fathom the level of discrimination African-Americans faced. The only discontentment was found in the lack of description of what his family might have faced throughout his journey. I recommend Black Like Me to anyone looking for a straightforward testament of prejudice, but only if your willing to put on some uncomfortable shoes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    I read Black Like Me for a school class and it was one of the mo

    I read Black Like Me for a school class and it was one of the most interesting books that I have ever read.  It revealed to me a lot about America and Americans and how we have treated one another.  Griffin is a phenomenal writer and I would definitely recommend this book if you have any interest in America's history or racial injustice. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    I knew Mr. Griffin & remember well the cross burned on his l

    I knew Mr. Griffin & remember well the cross burned on his lawn in Mansfield TX, He was very unpopular and although I talked to him several times, I was not able to converse about his book which was not sold in the local drugstore. I also remember his long black Cadilac being driven around town with town gossip wherever it went. He became even more unpopular when he appeared on the Johnny Carson show where the locals in Mansfield believed he showed their town in a negative light. Eventually he and his family moved away and I never saw him again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    Ever been segregated to the point where you could not sit where

    Ever been segregated to the point where you could not sit where you wanted on the bus, or not be able to walk
     into a restaurant that you once knew. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is about a young white man working
     for a magazine called Sepia. Sepia is ran by the colored culture and meant for the colored culture. When Griffin
     is asked to write an article on what it was like to be a Black man in the Deep South, he took his job to the next
     level by completely changing his skin color. Griffin stated, “You will not know what it is like to be a Black man
    living in the south unless you are a Black man living in the south.” Griffin has a hard time living in the South as
     he moves from state to state facing problems and moving deeper and deeper into the unknown, unthinkable,
    and unimaginable horrendous Deep South. Griffin begins to wonder if he will ever make it back alive. I enjoyed
    this book because I was able to really see how people were treated and learn more about the culture of that
    time. I recommend this book for teenage girls and middle-aged men and women. This book would be an
    enjoyed book for teenage girls because they are at a maturity level to understand what is happening. As well as
    being able to laugh at the characters, who bring humor to the book. In addition to teenage girls the book Black
    Like Me would be suitable for middle-aged men and women, for they will have a good understanding of what this
     time in history was like and become more familiar of what the other race was going through at that time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    This book shows

    This book shows how different the races were treated and how differebt thier lives are

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    I am a high school sophomore. I was surprised at how much I like

    I am a high school sophomore. I was surprised at how much I liked this book. It really captured my attention and 
    highly recommend reading it. It is appropriate for all age levels. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    This is an interesting book. My favorite part was when the autho

    This is an interesting book. My favorite part was when the author transformed himself and switched back and 
    forth between races. The reactions he received from the same people due his skin color was upsetting. 

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin is a very interesti

    Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin is a very interesting book about a white journalist who decides to leave his family and his home town to travel across Louisiana for what first started into a research project but became something much more important to him than that.
    When Griffin arrives to the town, he meets with a doctor who perscribes  him pills to take everyday that will turn his skin darker for him to become a black man.
    At first, Griffin is kind of scared because he doesn't know what to expect. As the project becomes into something bigger, Griffin experiences the real things "negros" have to experience in this town. He is threatened, followed, and people glare at him with looks of disgust.
    On the other hand, the black people of that society, are very welcoming to Griffin and treat him as if he were family. Griffin soon discovers that as he stops taking his pills, he becomes white again. With this, he begins to experiment both skin colors--white during the day and black at night.
    He discovers crazy unbelievable things, that make him open his eyes to the real world.  
    Personally, i think this books gives a lot of feedback of treatment to the negro society back during that time and the things they had to go through everyday, which was really interesting to me. That message is what i think is the most important message this book emphasizes.
    The things Griffin experiences after the world knows about his experiment, demonstrates the empathetic way people treat others--even of their own race. It makes me realize that there wasn't a lot of real freedom, or freedom of speech. I think the authors message to the readers about this book is to value your freedom and also to recap how unjust african americans were, and how they were treated and also how it affected them. and their lives.  Finally, i recommend this book to the people who are interested in learning about history and to value how life has changed to many people. I do not  recommend this book to people who are really passionate about their race and/or are really against racism because they might not enjoy the book as much, and might have a difficult time reading it. Overall, i think the book was really great! I enjoyed reading it, and would definitely read it again. 

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