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Black Like Me

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  52,688 Ratings  ·  2,250 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, 208 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Berkley Books (first published January 1st 1960)
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Rowena
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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 Christine
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 McCrystle
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, nonfiction
This was so incredibly painful and terrifying.
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Kalem Wright
Mar 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
“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
Fawaz Ali
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Bloodorange
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sociology, us
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
Laura
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading - I don’t know how I didn’t come across this sooner in my education.

In 1959, John Howard Griffin decided to try to pass as a black man, to experience that life in America. He spent time in New Orleans under the supervision of a dermatologist, taking pills to change his melanin & laying under heat lamps. He got darker & darker, until one night he left his friend’s house, & passed into the city as a black man. He expected to experience racism & the challenges of s
...more
Greg
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Didi
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Kells Next Read
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actual Ratings: 4.5
martin eden
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Cheryl
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
During the 1950's, John Howard Griffin, an upper class white man, took medication to darken his skin so that he could experience life as an African American male in the South. In this fascinating memoir, he reveals the injustices he encountered. I read this book many years ago, but think that in many ways, it unfortunately is still relevant today.
Cathy DuPont
Oct 18, 2013 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
Natalie Richards
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a powerful and moving read. What the author did, a white man who darkened his skin using medication, becoming a black man and travelling to the Deep South to experience what life would be like, is truely remarkable.
Larry Bassett
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Barrie
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Andi
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As the afterword states, this is a work of radical empathy. I had my doubts but it is stunning.
Kevin
Jan 29, 2012 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
Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
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
Anna
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Denise
Feb 13, 2008 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
Book Z Tobą
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It will forever be one of the most important books of my life.
Delaney Diamond
May 10, 2015 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
Becky
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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SQHS YLL: Black Like Me--John Howard Green 7 8 Jun 04, 2018 02:15PM  
African-American ...: February BB: Black Like Me 9 16 Feb 05, 2016 06:03PM  
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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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