Black Like Me
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Black Like Me

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  35,280 ratings  ·  1,379 reviews
The author tells of his experiences after he darkened his skin and traveled through the South in order to find out how it feels to be black.
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by Turtleback Books (first published January 1st 1960)
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Rowena
I can't say enough good things about this book. I thank men like John Howard Griffin who took a stand against racism despite the fact that their own people were vehemently against it. This entire book was a fantastic sociological and journalistic investigation of colour relations in the South in the 50s and 60s. It answered some questions I've always wanted to know, for example how did racist Christians justify their racism? Doesn't God teach us that we are all equal? The answer the author came...more
Allison
I was ready to give this book a somewhat generous review for what may be obvious reasons, but then I read some other reviews and now I’m annoyed. It’s ridiculous to cast John Howard Griffin as some kind of hero because he was “brave enough” to “endure” the “black experience” for less than 8 weeks. Sorry, but read a book by a black American about the black American experience if that’s what you want to learn about; I suspect any would be more holistic than to cast black men and women as purely ag...more
booklady
Although John Howard Griffin was known primarily for Black Like Me and it fully deserves all five stars I’ve awarded it, I’m hard pressed to say which impressed me more—the book itself or the brief biography of the author at the end. In only sixty years (1920-1980) Griffin managed to fight in the French Resistance, lose his eyesight as a result of a nearby explosion during a Japanese air raid, become Catholic, marry and have four children and ultimately go on to become a spokesman for the Civil...more
David Turner
My father took Griffin to the bus station in Dallas when he started h is journey. when the book came out, the Griffin family
lived with us for many weeks until the threats died down. (castration,tarring and feathering, outright murder to name a few)
since my family was mentioned inthe book, we were threatened as well. since i was a very small boy, my safety became a concern
for my parents from time to time.
when i became a mouthy teen ager i would try to take this on myself.
i got into more than a...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 10, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 501, memoirs
John Howard Griffin, a 39-year old white journalist of Sepia Magazine, changed his skin color and stayed for seven weeks in Deep South, USA among the black population. The year was 1959 prior to the Washington March and passing of the major civil rights bill in 1964.

When published in 1961, this book caused a major controversy: Mr. Griffin was persecuted by his whites by betraying their own race. Remember that at that time, Deep South states, e.g., Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia wer...more
Chris Freeman
Dec 04, 2007 Chris Freeman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book must have been unbelievably revolutionary in its day. I must admit that its original impact was lost on me at times because I expected many of Griffin's experiences as a white man disguised as a black man in 1959. He's treated poorly by white bus drivers, the hotels he stays in are substandard, he has to use separate facilites. There aren't many surprises as far as how he is treated (although there are a few).
What is surprising is how emotionally involved he gets. Within just a few day...more
Fawaz Ali
We all claim that we know the feelings of one another. Just ask a group of healthy individuals and they will likely tell you that they know the feelings of the sick! Ask rich people and they will tell you that they know the feelings of the poor. The question is: do they really know or do they only think that they know?

In Black Like Me, John Griffin, a white journalist, sought to answer a complex question: How does it feel like to be black in America? By dyeing his skin black and travelling in d...more
Greg
What a brilliant anthropological/sociological study of the Black experience! Using medication and dye, John Howard Griffin, darkened his skin, and took on the role of a black man while traveling through the deep South for a month. His goal -- to learn for himself what it is like. With tremendous eloquence, Griffin conveys the despair and fear that he felt as he experienced humiliating segregation, discrimination, racism, and demeaning living conditions. He lasted little more than a month, during...more
Cathy DuPont
Dec 24, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Sorry, folks. I have been trying to write a review of the fascinating journal of what life really was like for blacks in the south during the 1950's before the Civil Rights Act.

I may write more later but think you get how much I loved this book by my status updates and comments to GR friends.

If interested in what it was and in some respects still is in the south as a black person, this is a must read. It was quite courageous on John Howard Griffin to do what he did and compile his experiences...more
Didi
The old saying is that you never know what someone else is going through or living until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes and frankly it’s impossible. However, John Howard Griffin turned his skin black and tried to live as a black man for six weeks while travelling through the Deep South in 1959. He persisted to take a medication which is normally prescribed to patients suffering from vitiligo, a disease where white spots appear on the body and the face, in conjunction with exposure to ultra-vi...more
Ella
My main qualm with this book is that for some reason it's on teacher's lists and reading lists etc, but why are we listening and pushing a book written by a white man who "passed" as black for a while rather than actual black people who can and do study, write and explain their experience constantly. I get that perhaps some people won't be able to give credence to anyone but a white person, but isn't that a flaw of our culture? Why are the books written by and about black scholars/people not bei...more
Nina
Jan 16, 2011 Nina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nina by: Colin
This is a diary-like narrative by a white journalist who in 1959 takes pills and applies semi-permanent skin dye to make himself appear black, then travels around New Orleans and Mississippi as a black man. I can only imagine what an impact this book made at the time it was published. Reading this today, his experience isn't surprising or new (though this doesn't make it any less painful to read about it!).

At first I wasn't really sure why I would want to read about the experience of being blac...more
Michael
I cannot know how convincing a white man can be by using dyes and other disguise devices to try to blend in with blacks on their turf. The reality seems to be a stretch, but the idea was compelling. No matter how open minded I try to be, I know I can never fully know what it is like to be black, or red, or brown, or yellow. I'm a white boy. I'm not convinced of whether this book was all fiction or had some truth, but it felt good to think I may have been able to peek into the world of my black b...more
Barrie
I read this as a kid in Texas in the early '70s and found it absolutely riveting. I suspect the reviewers who are annoyed that Griffin is so admired are much younger. Society has changed so much in the interim, pre-multicultural life must seem comparable to the Jurassic Period. For a white man to "cross over" in the Deep South in 1959 was truly brave; remember, he didn't necessarily understand exactly how he should act with white people, which put him in danger. This in no way negates or minimiz...more
Denise
Feb 13, 2008 Denise rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to read about different races and discrimination
This book opened my eyes to how society was before I was born. Discrimination was so severe that people were afraid to be the wrong race. I feel that I have experience discrimination when I was in high school for being Native American in a mainly "white" high school. The severity of my discrimination does not compare to the discrimination that Griffin voluntarily experienced during the time of his experiment in the Deep South. I could not believe the risks Griffin put himself against. He first...more
Anna
Things are better but sometimes not as much as they need to be. In the book he tells of whites thinking they can ask inappropriate questions about sex. They assume blacks are animals when it comes to sex. I remember when I was working as a phlebotomist in a major hospital. I was drawing blood while a resident was getting the patients history. The patient was an older black man. The resident asked him if "he took it in the ass". I remember being shocked and thinking he would never speak that way...more
Sophia
Feb 18, 2011 Sophia rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sophia by: Law class
I was mandated to read this book for Law class. After all, my teacher reasoned, it's Black History Month, and as we're a predominantly (very much so) white school, he thought this was the best way to truly empathize.

It's just, it's not the story - though it is kind of dry - it's the man's writing. It feels fake. It doesn't feel earnest, like a journal should. All his entries don't give me an intimate encounter with the man, he simply narrates actions from a distance, like he's afraid to tell me...more
Amy Heap
An extraordinary book, I am very surprised I had not read, or even heard of it before. It is the account of John Howard Griffin, who in 1959, took pills and used dye to darken his skin so he could experience life as a black man in the deep south. Much of his experience is as horrific and demoralising as I would have expected, though the pointless stupidity of the hatred and cruelty is still jarring. The most surprising thing, for me, was how quickly he came to feel hopeless and so very far away...more
Daniel Namie
"Black Like Me" is an all-inspiring depiction of racism in America during the 1960. The overt and covert racism portrayed in "Black Like Me" speaks not only to me, the white man, but to all generations of "negro" Americans. Furthermore John Howards Griffins portrayal of civil injustice is a very americana ideas. The inalienable rights of "Life. Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" were stripped from negroes at birth. Griffin's work, along with other civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King...more
Andy
Your gut level reaction to rating Black Like Me would be to give it five stars because John Howard Griffin had a pair of balls the size of boulders to travel down to the Deep South during one of the worst periods in African-American History disguised as a Black man.

Unfortunately, you can't. I knocked off a few stars because the writing itself curbed my enthusiasm. I was a little annoyed with Griffin's patronizing descriptions of all the blacks: all the men were described as educated and astute a...more
Jerome Peterson
An amazing story of a journalist, John Griffin, who has his skin medicated into turning dark brown. Set during the 1950's Griffin journeys south as an unemployed black man looking for work as a writer. The complications he encounters are staggering. A definite education on perception and still relative today! One of my favorite books simply because it is a stereo type crasher!
Judy
I don't read much non-fiction for My Big Fat Reading Project. When I do, I choose books that give me the sense of living amidst the times or that fill in parts of history I never fully learned. Black Like Me gave me a great deal of insight into what life was like for southern Blacks in the early years of the Civil Rights struggle.

The premise is almost unbelievable. A white journalist from Texas, by means of medication and dyes, turns himself into a Negro and spends time with other Negroes in va...more
Jim Vuksic
I read "Black Like Me" in 1961; just one year after it was published.
Racial tension was evident everywhere in the United States; but nowhere was it more evident than in the southern states where the Confederate stars and bars was displayed more often than the stars and stipes.

This southern journalist's dramatic account of chemically darkening his skin and passing for a black man in the southern region where he was born and raised is a shocking revelation of just what it is like to be treated as...more
Jo Bryant
It was the summer I turned fourteen that I wandered into a dusty book shop in Maroubra.

The shop itself was almost hidden in a small dingy mall. The windows were grimy; a fag hung from the mouth of the shop assistant as she sat on a stool behind the counter.

Her eyes were dull, and her bored glance quickly left my face as she seemed to classify me as unworthy of any effort.

Against the wall was a table. It held the cheaper throwaways. The books no-one wants. Not even the shop. Those sorts of tables...more
Anna
Apr 19, 2011 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: 2011, bookcrossing
This book was written in 1959, barely 50 years ago. In the context of humanity, that's not even yesterday, it's just seconds ago.
The copy I read was from 1961, of the 34th big printing.

John Howard Griffin was a white writer from Texas, and for this book he took pigmenting medication and dyed his skin black to pass as a 'Negro' in the deep South, which in 1959 was still a very segregated place. The deep South he explored in this book consisted of New Orleans and surroundings, Mississippi, and Ala...more
Becky
This book is a tough and painful read. Mr. Griffin's act of "becoming" a black man for 6-7 weeks in 1959 in the Deep South filled me with anxiety and dread. His description of the "hate stare" and his experience of racism did not surprise me entirely except the in-your-face comments. I thought people's actions might be more subtle but they were not. What did surprise me was the amount of planning or thought that might go into a day, for a Black person at that time, to plan out where to eat, wher...more
Lori
I picked up this book because it was my high school son's summer reading assignment and I'd forgotten everything about it. I'm glad I gave it a closer look. I was worried there'd be nothing new to discover-after all, the premise he's testing is whether or not racism exists. Duh. I worried the book would be so dated, there'd almost be no way to carry on a contemporary discussion about how racism continues to influence our culture. In this case, the time period - prior to Civil Rights - is almost...more
Vilija Pauliukonis
I enjoyed this book for the chutzpah of the (white) author in undertaking this idea of going out into the deep south (in 1959!) as a black man. His observations and the retelling of his experiences are masterfully crafted. My problem, as an academic reader and scholar, is that this book is not researched. There are no statistics, research, or interviews in the book, indeed no sources included that were written by a black person, but Griffin speaks for the "negro race" as if he is a part of it. H...more
Crizzle
I first heard of this book my first sememster of college, in my sociology class. I was intrigued but forgot the title/author until I read "Under the Overpass" a few months ago (two educated, wealthy Christian guys living as the homeless). In 1959, John Howard Griffin, a white journalist, takes medicine, gets some UV rays, and applies semi-permanent dye to look black. He leaves his family and lives and travels in the deep south for 6 weeks... barely surviving. It is so sad to catch a glimpse of t...more
Raziya Bryant
John Howard Griffin, the author and main character of Black Like Me, he is a middle-aged white man living in Mansfield, Texas in 1959. He is deeply concerned about the racial justice and gets frustrated by himself being a white man, because he was lacking the understanding of the black experience. Griffin took upon himself to take a huge racial step, by changing his skin color temporarily to become a black man. Eventually, Griffin looks in the mirror and sees a black man looking back at him; he...more
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John Howard Griffin was a white American journalist who is best known for his account, Black Like Me, in which he details the experience of darkening his skin and traveling as a black man through through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in 1959. (The racism that he encountered was so disturbing that he cut short the time that he had allotted for this very unique experiment, clearly dem...more
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“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man's face. I felt like saying: "What in God's name are you doing to yourself?” 21 likes
“Every fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him up” 14 likes
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