An absolutely amazing true story -- one that may be hard to believe for anyone born after 1970 -- but an important piece of U.S. history and a must-read for anyone who believes in fairness and justice. Parts of this book may seem unlikely or even naive to the 21st century reader, but it's all true, and we dare not forget what our society has (hopefully) overcome in the last half century.
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.
This book was amazing, especially since it is real. I study sociology but Black Like Me should be required reading for everyone. It would be even more amazing if someone were to do a follow-up to see what things are like now but John Howard Griffin's work is just as powerful today as it was when his pen first hit the page.
A true story.In the 60's a white man used a medical preparation that darkened his skin and made him appear black. This book is the narrative of his experiences as a black man in the segregated 60's. A real eye opener.
There are times I feel that my public education denied me important parts of my education. This is one of them.
"Black Like Me" is the true account of journalist John Howard Griffin and his journey through the South as a black man during the days of jim crow justice and segregation. Through a combination of melatonin pills, ultraviolet light treatments and a dye, Griffin made himself appear to be black, in order to better understand racism and how it affected society. The idea alone is incredible. That someone actually did this and then wrote about it, is nothing short of mind-boggling.
Griffin's book is written as a series of journal entries detailing his experiences as a black man in the South. Much of this details things that are textbook segregation: not being able to eat at white restaurants, not being allowed to drink from white water fountains, and not even being allowed to use white restrooms. What raises this above mere textbook knowledge is the immediacy of the narrative. Reading the book, you get a real sense of the indignity of having to walk for more than a mile just to go the bathroom, of not being given a drink of water on a scorching hot day, and of being subjected to what Griffin calls "the hate stare."
Beyond the obvious racism and racist attitudes, there were a few things revealed in the book that I found disturbing. One is that, in the afterword, Griffin notes that once the Civil Rights Act was passed, a number of white Civil Rights advocates felt that the work was finished. Blacks were guaranteed the right to vote, segregation was over, and things were looking up, What else was needed? Further demands by blacks for advancement and opportunity were met with incredulity and anger.
Secondly, Griffin had some illuminating thoughts on black achievement and the attitudes Southern whites had on that subject. As he traveled the South, Griffin noted the substandard living conditions many black families had, and noted that many whites attributed this to the overall shiftlesness of black culture, and the lack of desire on the part of blacks to get ahead and achieve for themselves.
Of course, at the same time, blacks routinely were being denied economic opportunities, funding for their schools was low, and their overall access to culture in the form of theater, concerts, and even libraries was minimal. And why should the wealth be taken from hard-working whites, and given to people who haven't worked for it?
As with questions on Civil Rights protections, it's obvious that the questions Griffin raised during his day are questions that we continue to discuss in contemporary American politics.
Right now we're at a crossroads in American education, where our standards are being adjusted to stress nonfiction reading, to "improve work-readiness" and to make us "more competitive in the global job market" and a lot of other things like that. There are a lot of books that are being cut from the national standards that shouldn't be, like "To Kill a Mockingbird." This is another book that should be part of our national curriculum, because it should be a part of our national conversation.
We have made some progress since the 1950s in terms of race, but we still have more to go. As we make that progress, "Black Like Me" should be a part of our discussion.
I read this a lot of years ago (and just bought it again today for my keep collection) and it's one of my favorite all time books to this day. Many authors have tried to achieve what Griffin actually achieved but have failed. This is amazing in so many forms- everyone should read this at least once. I plan on reading it again...soon.
Eye-opening book!! Having been raised in the South, I thought that I knew a little about what conditions were like for persons of color prior to desegregation, but as it turns out, I was clueless. This should be a mandatory read for everyone. It is appalling that conditions like that could exist and those in authority did not seem to care.
On my TBR for years, I have just now finished ths book.. Why did I choose to read it now? Because I wanted to understand some of the impetus behind today's Black Lives Matter movement. I realize that the movement encompasses all people of color in our country.
Nevertheless, the experiences of this writer in his quest to learn more about the lives of black Americans during the 1960s is a reminder of two facts. First, that many strides have been made since that time and second, that one of the greatest limitations to black equality is still voter suppression. We saw that in both of the past presidential elections. For this one, postal drop boxes were removed and efforts to slow and disqualify absentee ballots was rampant.
The author quotes Plato on page 34: ââ¦it is by justice that we can authentically measure man's value or his nullityâ¦the absence of justice is the absence of what makes him a man.â Or, in other words he rephrases: âhe who is less than just is less than man.â Of course, this applies to women as well for they are making strides, both positive and negative, regarding our democratic way of life.
As I read this book, I thought of encounters I have had with others, both people of color and white. Where I went to college the only people of color I met were of Chinese descent. As I pursued other degrees, I met black Americans and attended a black fraternity dance where I was the only white person present. I was treated courteously but began to understand how a minority feels. As time went on I met students from India, Nigeria, and worked with Native Americans and others. I saw a white woman who employed a Native American to work her yard say, âHe should be glad to have a job.â I knew that woman would pay as little as she could, too.
Am I without prejudice? Probably not but I have great respect and admiration for people of color. As Griffith discovers, they have been belittled and held down in life in far too many ways. He experienced first hand when he colored his skin how white people of that time treated African Americans. The resulting media interviews and writings affected him and his family greatly. His parents were harassed tso much that they moved to Mexico. He and his family soon followed so his children could grow up without harassment. Now I can't help but ask: How much has our society changed? We have individuals who harass others so much that they fear for their lives. Some of them live next to us
Somehow my high school education never included this book as assigned reading; my loss. So when I saw news that the 50th anniversary edition was out, I thought that it was time to expand my education. What a book! The risks that the author took had me shaking my head and made me fearful in reading some parts of the book. On the other hand, his portrayal of the generosity and kindness displayed by some of the people he encounters gives one hope for humanity. Highly recommended!
Powerful, fascinating. I first read this as a teenager. Still relevant today, especially for people who liked "Nickeled and Dimed in America," "Fast Food Nation," and other first-person research/social commentary books.
I read this book from the school library in 1972. I was shocked at how blacks were treated in the south. I was in high school and I left my books on the shelves so I could use the restroom. I never had a book stolen or destroyed in high school. When I came out the book was stolen.When it was returned to the school library it was hacked to death, destroyed. I lived in a Northern suburban city and I was taught God created all people equal at home and church. I was shocked.
Loved this book! What courage it took to go through this experience. I am deeply embarrassed that human beings acted this way. Makes me challenge my thinking as to what else do I dismiss or look down upon that has been conditioned to me by society.
This is a awesome look into the heart and mind of the deep south in the late 50's and 60's.
The author dyes his skin and becomes black. He instantly get treated differant by the whites and blacks alike. I remember the blacks only water fountians and feeling very bad for my friends who were black that they were "differant." To me they were just friends.
It is a very sad, and thoughtful book. I highly recommend it. VERY well written.
I give it 6 stars