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Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black
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Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,942 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
A stunning journey to the heart of the racial dilemma in this country.
Paperback, 285 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Plume (first published February 1st 1995)
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Oct 09, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing
It was very funny to read this book to later find out that he is the president of my former College.

We were assigned to read the book and no one ever pointed it out that the author shared the same name as the president of our school. I think we didn't notice because he truly looks "white" but when we found out we all looked at him differently but in a good way.

I loved this book even before i knew the author. I have a lot more respect for him.
May 13, 2008 T.J. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: multiracial folk, would-be activists, human interest story readers
Life on the Color Line is the perfect counter-balance to Rebecca Walker's Black, White, and Jewish. While Walker is a Generation X child in middle class, coastal America, Greg Williams' childhood is a 1960's, poor, midwestern tale, and highlights the absolute diversity of the multiracial experience.

Williams tells the story of his brutal, impoverished childhood with candor and sympathy, describing his tragic mulatto father and his distant white mother in differing levels of nuance. He manages to
Sep 01, 2010 Lennie rated it really liked it
When Greg Williams was growing up in Virginia, he was told by his parents that he was Italian so he always considered himself white. Imagine his surprise to learn at age ten that his father is really Mulatto and that he has a large extended family, living in Indiana who is black and who he has never met. That’s what happened to Williams when he moved with his father and younger brother to Muncie after his parents divorced. The next few years were rough on Williams—it was difficult to make friend ...more
Apr 03, 2011 RYCJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-keepers
Best Book I've yet read this year!!!

This is a dynamic memoir. Each time I look at Greg's smiling face on the cover reduces me to tears. Makes me think, what if there were no people in the world like his father, and mother, and Miss Dora, and the many people of Muncie... would there be a drive to help others? Would it alter they way we compete? Extolling another demographic of social intolerance intrinsic to the individual and collective human need to feel worthy... be superior? Would it ever lea
Aug 29, 2010 Alisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law-injustice
I remember walking into a keynote address by the author several years ago where all I knew was the topic was related to diversity in the legal profession. Before he started speaking I remember thinking I was going to hear a lecture from a white academic who had no personal insights. I could not have been more wrong!! The first ten years of his life he had every reason to believe he was white and no reason to question it. He learns otherwise, which alone might give rise to some revelations, but h ...more
Aug 01, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I've had this book for several years, and have read it exactly twice - so far. Life on the color line may give people a better idea of why someone would try to pass for white, denying their family entirely, and sometimes with their family's blessing. While even today, life is quite difficult for minorities, particularly the non-white, dark ones - predominantly folk with African ancestry - it's nothing compared to what it used to be. Although, we still hold to the one-drop rule - just as one drop ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Areli rated it really liked it
Very well written. I could not give it a five because I wanted to read more! He rushed the ending and cheated us out of celebrating with him for triumphing against all odds. It's a very thought provoking book and though I want my biracial children to read it, they will have to be 18 first. The book is very detailed and therefore had lots of sexual content and vulgar words that I don't want my children to read about just yet. I do however, understand why they were included. The true picture of Mu ...more
Tracey L.H.
Dec 30, 2007 Tracey L.H. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
As a temporary housekeeper for a college in Vermont, I found this book.

I was so intrigued by Mr. Williams' struggle and his crazy yet intelligent father, Buster, that I finished it probably in a day. Yes, it is a page turner. But it also sheds light on the racism and discrimination experienced by blacks on a daily basis.

It was only until Williams "one drop" status was affirmed that his struggles began...

Perhaps that's why this book was left for trash in the more affluent and easy going life of
Apr 01, 2017 Maam rated it it was amazing
Wow what a story of personal triumph. Not as easy book to read and at times so heartbreaking to me the only thing that kept me going was because it had been written at all which meant that he was going to make it and overcome all the mess thrown at him.

A powerful memoir.
Feb 24, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this book were fiction you would find it preposterous, the fact that it's true makes it affecting and inspiring. I picked up to read because I am helping a college freshman with a term paper that analyzes this book. It seemed it would help him along if I knew the material too. I am enriched for the experience as the student predicted I would be when he talked about the book.

Gregory Williams is now the President of the University where this student is taking the course. That is a testament to
Jun 17, 2007 Lori rated it liked it
Well my mother finally read it. Lo and behold she also knows the author and taught both of his sons. Only she didn't realize it until she started reading the book.

Attempts at name dropping aside...

The author's story is one that desperately needs to be told again and again in this country. I'll need another read of it to determine whether his tack takes too much from victimhood or not. Regardless, I feel some of the material could have been left out. The image of his first sexual experience just
Jan 17, 2010 Leeann rated it liked it
I thought that was a very interesting book. It was a fascinating account of growing up black, and the trials he faced, while by all appearances he was (looked) white. I probably would have given this 4-5 stars, but I hated the ending. There was so much detail of his youth, and then the last couple of years were summed up in 4 pages. I wanted to know more about his experience in college, how he and his wife were reunited, etc. But overall, a great book.
Nov 07, 2011 mmaquilino rated it really liked it
This is an amazing story on many levels. The entire time I read this book I kept referring back to the picture of the author because I couldn't believe what I was reading versus what I was seeing. There were times that I felt I was reading the story in "real time" it went so slow for me, but overall, it was a wonderful book. For me the ending leaves room for a sequel....mmmmm, if Mr. Williams wrote one I want to read it!!!
Oct 21, 2016 Jenni rated it it was amazing
It never ceases to amaze me how cruelly human beings treat each other based solely on the color of skin, and I don't know how one can read this book without being overwhelmed by anger.

The author tells his story of life growing up in the 50s in small town, segregated Indiana. Brought to Indiana by his mostly absent, alcoholic father after being abandoned by his mother at age 10, he learned at that time that he was 1/4 black and overnight found himself having to contend with a new identity. Light
Jan 29, 2011 Annie rated it really liked it
What an amazing story (and true too). I am currently on chapter five and have really gotten into this story. I'm hoping it turns out as well as the last story I read that was a "down-and-out" story. It breaks my heart that kids have to live these kinds of lives because of their parents. It's so not fair.

Well, it's another story like the last one in the sense that it's not fair that kids can't pick their parents. This is an amazing young man who makes the most of his situation and I was glad to h
Feb 05, 2017 Katie rated it really liked it
Fascinating! It was eye-opening to read about the horrific racism that occurred in Muncie, IN in the 1950s-1970s. The fact that the author looked white (but was part black) didn't help him at all as, once people found out he was black, they turned on him.

The author's father was a fascinating character and Miss Dora, who raised him, sounds like she was his salvation. What a wonderful lady!

The fact that his white mother could abandon him and his brother and leave them to their fate in such a raci
Jul 21, 2012 Paula rated it really liked it
Gregory Williams, current president of University of Cincinnati, wrote his heart rending memoir in 1995 about growing up black in Muncie, Indiana after spending his first ten years as a white boy in Northern Virginia, believing his father was a dark-skinned Italian. He was uprooted when his mother left his abusive and alcoholic father who brought him to Muncie to be raised by his paternal grandmother. As a bi-racial child he dealt with prejudice and issues of identity as he was shunned by both b ...more
Jun 06, 2007 Lori rated it it was amazing
It was interesting to read a book that was true and took place in a town I lived in for 3 years! It was crazy that I waited until I lived in Seattle to read it, although I could picture in my head so much of the locale of the book. It was also crazy to kind of see things that changed and things that stayed the same in Muncie. The story itself was crazy, and to see that this kid became the man that he became in the world that he grew up in is amazing. I also have to say that racism makes no sence ...more
Apr 10, 2014 George rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Life on the Color Line is both well written and interesting, and I highly recommend it. Williams describes the plight of his family- an alcoholic father, trouble-making brother, and absent mother in a straight forward manner. He depicts a social environment that never allowed him to get comfortable or be sure of himself. In the end he brings a positive perspective to a very difficult upbringing, remaining optimistic and thankful towards the people in his life that pushed, encouraged, and believe ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Adean rated it really liked it
I was first introduced to this writer when he appeared on Oprah, her segment was on racism, and you had to guess if someone was black or white. Prior to his race being divulge, he spoke on diversity and racism in America

I did not want this story to end; afterwards I was greedy to find out more about Gregory, his life and his family. I'm so proud of the author but so sad an angry for what happens to him during his young life. While reading this book I spoke it's praises to all that would listen.
Ann Blazovic
Oct 15, 2014 Ann Blazovic rated it it was amazing
This book had me from the first chapter. I grew up in the same time period as him but because I was in NY, we lived such different lives. I went to school with black children and never thought twice about it. I was one of ten children and we were poor, but after reading about how he was treated and what his life was like I feel that I never really knew what poor was, I never went to sleep hungry. The fact that he overcame his surroundings and excelled at life was heartwarming and he has much to ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Malika rated it really liked it
In all, I thought it to be a decent read, but it seems to be my luck this year to keep finding books where the author takes many pages to go short distance only to put their writing at mach speed in the end.

Williams describes in vivid detail the first 3 years of his life as a colored boy after having lived his first nine years as white, describes in somewhat less detail the early teen years, and then flies through late highschool and college. Is one to assume that his "life on the color line" wa
Cara Hinton
Jun 20, 2014 Cara Hinton rated it it was amazing
Great book about race relations in the fifties. Also important to note are the many children in America who are hungry and in need. Thankfully these boys found Dora but so many have no one and are poor, hungry and have nothing. We should be more generous to those in our community rather than to issues abroad.
Feb 27, 2009 Colleen rated it really liked it
Amazing what a boy growing up in the 1950's who appeared to be White went through once it was revealed that he was 1/4 Black. He was persecuted by both racial groups--his White family disowned him (including his mother), and he met with constant ridicule from this Black family (including the love-hate relationship with his alcoholic 1/2-Black father).
Tia Crane
Mar 15, 2010 Tia Crane rated it liked it
Reasonably written and unique in character I enjoyed the book but I have to say I expected more from it. I guess it feels to me like the story was too interesting to fail but he almost told it from a position of boredom, I was left somewhere in the middle.
May 17, 2015 Janet rated it it was amazing
I have great respect for Gregory Howard Williams. He defied the odds despite much adversity in his formative years with a broken family and discriminatory treatment in 1960s Indiana. This is a well written memoir - highly recommended.
Jun 13, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Susan by: Chris
My brother handed me this book to read while traveling home on the airplane. I started reading it in the airport, read it on the plane and stayed up until 3 in the morning until I finished it. I found it that amazing.
Nicole Venere
Dec 30, 2014 Nicole Venere rated it it was amazing
A powerful story that must be told. Please read it and let it remind you that racism (and all other horrible prejudices) is disgusting and has to stop!
Aug 14, 2015 Cat rated it it was amazing
Excellent! This is an account of live and times in America that I hope are never seen again.
Feb 19, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
Especially interesting due to the fact that the author grew up in my hometown and wrote of his experiences there.
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Gregory Howard Williams is a scholar, attorney, law school professor, author, and formerly the 27th President of the University of Cincinnati (2009 to 2012) and the 11th President of the City College of New York (2001 - 2009).
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