kottke.org posts about johnhowardgriffin

Black Like MeFeb 16 2009

Black Like Me

In 1959, John Howard Griffin altered his appearance to look like a black man and travelled through the South documenting his experiences, which he collected into a 1961 book called Black Like Me.

"[Whites] judged me by no other quality. My skin was dark. That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival." He became depressed, and his face lapsed into "the strained, disconsolate expression that is written on the countenance of so many Southern Negroes." He "decided to try to pass back into white society" and scrubbed off the stain; immediately "I was once more a first-class citizen." The knowledge gave him little joy.

Contemporary reviewer Jonathan Yardley says that the book has "lost surprisingly little of its power" since its publication. (via 3qd)

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