Summary of Book Black Like Me

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Sept. 10, 2011
Black Like Me (Second Edition) By John Howard Griffin 1960
In the late 1950’s John Griffin, a white journalist and specialist on race issues from Texas, made the decision to experience the racial south as a black man in order to help him more understand the suicide rates. John documented his life changing experience first-hand as a Negro and the discrimination based on skin color. After an agreement with Sephia magazine to fund the project in exchange for the right to print experts from the book, although they felt John was putting himself in a dangerous situation, John told his wife that he would change his skin color and travel the South. John first arrived in New Orleans and while staying at a white friend’s house he begins taking pills and staying under ultra violet lights, covering and scrubbing his body with stain, and shaving his head John began his journey as a Negro. He did not change anything else about himself. He kept his name and did not change his wardrobe, speech patterns, or references and every question was answered truthfully. He made sure not to involve anyone that offered their help in order to protect them from racism. In the white part of New Orleans he finds that he is not treated equally. He cannot go in restaurants or stores that he could as a white man. When he offers a white woman a seat on the bus he is faced with the challenge not to offend the blacks in acts that would disrespect them. When he meets with Sterling Williams a shoe shiner who does not recognize him by his appearance but is familiar with his name and occupation, he confides in Sterling and lets him know what he is doing. Sterling agrees to have him stay around and helps him in adjusting in being a black man. He stays and finds that whites have no shame asking where they can find Negro girls. This is offending to blacks as it shows that whites think that their low morals are not offended by this. The environment is so different, the smells and sounds, that his starts missing home. He finds that blacks work against and degrade each other instead of working together. Instead of boosting each other they try to impress the whites with these acts. When he leaves his room to go find a place in a “colored” café is feels the racist terror that blacks face when a white man follows him through town trying to get him to stop. John challenges the white bully and he disappears. The next day he finds that although he is educated and well-dressed he cannot find a job because of his skin color. He meets a black student who walked him over 2 miles to a movie. This shows that blacks inside their own community treat each other courtesy and respect unlike when they are around white people. John is then chased out of a park by a white man and then finds out that blacks are allowed in that park. The white man does this just because he feels he can. John takes a bus to get back to where he is staying and is treated differently when the driver does not let him off until 8 blocks after he ask to be off. When a jury did not indict a white for a lynching in Mississippi he experiences the feeling of a black not as a second class citizen but even less. The jury deliberately does not punish the accused white men in spite of having enough evidence by the FBI against them that they never looked at. John decides that he will take his journey to Mississippi. He knows he must cash travelers’ checks. No one wants to cash them even when he offers to buy things, this was racism insinuating that the checks were probably stolen. He gets it cashed at a Catholic bookstore which is owned by a white man. John gets the “hate stare” and is screamed and cursed at when he attempts to buy his bus ticket to Mississippi. He finds that even in bus stops blacks were treated unworthy of waiting inside and have their own segregated outside. Whites were allowed to get on the bus in the front then blacks were allowed to go to the back of the bus. At a stop on the way...
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