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Black Like Me

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4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  47,892 Ratings  ·  1,953 Reviews
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 ne ...more
Paperback, 35th Anniversary Edition, 192 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by Signet (first published January 1st 1960)
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Rowena
Nov 25, 2011 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!!!
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
David Turner
Mar 10, 2010 David Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Julie
Let's just put this right up front: the idea that it takes a white man posing as a black man to convince white America of the realities of racism smacks of patronizing racial tourism; something only tone-deaf Hollywood could conjure up (except that not even Hollywood dreamed up Rachel Dolezal, who egregiously co-opted a black identity to further her professional agenda and to block up holes in her own emotional dam).

But that is looking at John Griffin's extraordinary experiment through a 21st c
...more
Ella
Sep 22, 2013 Ella rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Lindsey Rey
Jan 19, 2015 Lindsey Rey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
This was so incredibly painful and terrifying.
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
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
Nov 04, 2007 Chris Freeman rated it really liked it  ·  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
Oct 04, 2011 Fawaz Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: platinum-list
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
Aug 23, 2008 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bloodorange
Nov 17, 2016 Bloodorange rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, non-fiction, sociology
A note on rating: I would probably have given if five stars if I hadn't read Invisible Man and Between the World and Me - both tremendous eye openers, like this one - earlier this year. I may yet revisit the rating if I continue to think of this book.

My first reaction was: where Between the World and Me focused on mental strain produced by being black, this book focused on everyday physical humiliations - having to plan your day around the very limited map of places when a black person could ha
...more
Didi
Aug 29, 2013 Didi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
martin eden
Jan 31, 2017 martin eden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That book had a great impact on me! First, it was disturbing and intriguing: especially that scene when he discovers for the first time his own image as a black person. That crucial moment is so disconcerting!
I felt deeply disgusted and ashamed that some human beings could (and can still) inflict such a treatment to other human beings.
I was profoundly moved. I learned a lot about that period and the South (especially the differences that could exist between the different States). It gave me a
...more
Kalem Wright
Mar 17, 2015 Kalem Wright rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
“Black Like Me” follows author John Howard Griffin, a Texas-born journalist, as he explores the very face of racism and prejudice in the Deep South in 1960s...in blackface. Far from a punchline, it’s the ethnographic method Griffin uses to infiltrate black neighborhoods that would be otherwise socially locked to him and elicit bigotry without guardedness and gentility from whites.
At its best, Griffin’s journey serves as an example of the courage and effort it requires to put aside privilege and
...more
Cathy DuPont
Oct 18, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Andi
Dec 14, 2016 Andi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the afterword states, this is a work of radical empathy. I had my doubts but it is stunning.
Kevin
Jan 29, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It may be possible that more people have expended more words and energy on this book than any other that I've read and reviewed so far. That leaves me feeling that writing my own review is a daunting task since I'm competing with so many eminent scholars, historians, and professional writers.
So I guess I have to just forget all of that and say, "Holy shit."

I find it impossible to believe that I wasn't asked to read this at some point during my schooling. I recognize that I grew up in the south a
...more
Larry Bassett
Sep 11, 2016 Larry Bassett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
The white author by taking a drug change to his skin complexion from white to black and traveled through the south as a black man for seven weeks in 1959. I listen to this book in the audible format. The book was originally published in 1963 and the Audible format includes additional thoughts in an appendix by the author added in 1976. The author was a bit of an academic and had apparently written other published material before this book. After this book was published he apparently rolled it in ...more
Caidyn
It's amazing to me that people hail this book so much, and not because it's a bad book. It was timely and it still applies. Except, if a white man decided to turn himself black in order to study black people, then went back to white society, he'd be called Rachel Dolezal and be accused of wearing blackface and perpetrating appropriation. But, that's a whole other topic for another review, I'm sure.

For me, it wasn't an excellent book. A lot of what he said, I grew up hearing and listening to. I l
...more
Barrie
Jan 25, 2009 Barrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nina
Jan 03, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  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
Anna
Sep 21, 2011 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Delaney Diamond
May 10, 2015 Delaney Diamond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I’d always heard about this book and finally took the time to read it. It’s a really fascinating true account of a white man who shaved his head and darkened his skin to live like a black man, back in 1959. The entire experiment only lasted about a month, because frankly, that’s all he could handle.

It was interesting—almost comical to me that after being “black” less than a week, he had a meltdown where he started crying because of his observations and experiences. Imagine being black your whole
...more
Denise
Feb 13, 2008 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  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
Becky
Aug 27, 2010 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Judy
Jan 17, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lori
Aug 19, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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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?” 29 likes
“Every fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him up” 26 likes
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