Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Like Me

This is a book everyone should read. The more I learn about the civil rights era and the time before it, the more horrified I am. This book is the memoirs of John Howard Griffin and the time he spent passing as a black man in the South. Griffin, a white man, dyed his skin and was able to fool people in to thinking he was black to see how blacks were really treated.


The treatment he received from whites was horrible. He was treated as if he were a child. He was asked all kinds of sexual questions from whites' beliefs that blacks were hyper sexual. He felt that he was in danger on many instances. He wasn't welcome in white stores and waiting rooms, even though he was paying the same amount for a ticket or wanted to purchase the same goods as whites. Griffin could never stop moving. A black man standing or sitting could easily attract unwanted police attention.

A telling incident happened when Griffin was riding a bus. The bus driver refused to stop where Griffin asked to be let out. Griffin spoke of his helplessness of not being able to do anything, even get mad, much less get off the bus, while the driver acted like such a jerk. 

One of the things I found really interesting was how the blacks Griffin interacted with felt such a connection with each other. I do suppose, though, that if the color of your skin is all anyone can see, it also strongly connects you with others who look like you. The people Griffin met talked about their status in society quite a bit.

Not surprisingly, the treatment he received after this book was published wasn't much better. He and his family became virtual outcasts in their hometown. People were horrified by a white man telling such a story.

It's quite a different book from The Help. But if you liked The Help and want to know more about how blacks were treated during that time period, you should definitely pick this up. This was a quick and powerful read.


  1. I too, am more horrified as I continue to read and learn about this era. Just added this to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. This sounds like a good recommendation! Another book that is somewhat similar is One Drop. The author's father was part African-American, but he hid it from everybody. She found out when she was an adult. It gives a good perspective of why he did what he did.