Black Like Me is a nonfiction book written by John Howard Griffin

February 22, 2019 Critical Thinking

Black Like Me is a nonfiction book written by John Howard Griffin. It detailed his journey as an African American through the Southern United States during the 1950’s. The book opened the eyes of readers by illustrating the challenging life as an African American during the time of racial segregation. The purpose of this historic book was to explore racism in the south and show the harsh reality of life as an African American.
First, Griffin began his experiment as an African American in New Orleans, Louisiana. He met and confided in a local shoe shiner named Sterling Williams, both as a white man and as a black man. Griffin noticed that Sterling seemed to be more comfortable with him as a black man, as he only discussed the concerns of pleasing the white man as an African American while Griffin was black. In New Orleans, Griffin experienced segregation for the first time. He had difficulty finding jobs, restaurants, and restrooms, and also received insults and threats from white members of the community. Later, Griffin traveled into Mississippi and Alabama. On his journey into Mississippi, Griffin encountered a young black man by the name of Christophe. Christophe expressed love to white people and expressed hate to black people, claiming he was not African American and he would be ashamed to be one of them. “I’m not pure Negro,” he said proudly. “My mother was French, my father Indian (56).” Once Griffin arrived in Mississippi, he was immediately harassed by a group of white men. He was a target of thrown fruit and insults, and he quickly realized how incredibly horrible Mississippi treated African Americans. Next, Griffin hitchhiked his way through Mississippi and Alabama until he reached Montgomery, Alabama. In Montgomery, Griffin noticed how different the city was from the other places he had experienced earlier in his experiment. The black community worked together in order to fight against racism. He also noticed the disbelief whites had toward the passionate resistance that the black community possessed. “The Negro’s feeling of utter hopelessness is here replaced by a determined spirit of passive resistance…. Here, the Negro has committed himself to a definite stand. He will go to jail, suffer any humiliation, but he will not back down. He will take the insults and abuses stoically so that his children will not have to take them in the future (120).” After the conclusion of his experiment, Griffin began to make his journey known. He wanted the world to see how African Americans were treated. He spoke out to magazines, television shows, radio shows, and groups of people in order to spread the truth of racism. Griffin and his family then moved to Mexico after he faced several prejudices from communities around the south. Not only did his experiment show the world how African Americans lived in the segregated south, but also was an exceptional event for the Civil Rights Movement.
In comparison to other books I have read, Black Like Me was a powerful and moving book. Griffin’s writing style and vocabulary were simple, yet impactful. It was an autobiographical diary, as he wrote from his own point of view. Many authors attempt to complicate their writing, forcing readers to deeply analyze the meaning of their words, but Griffin’s words and sentences were not too complex. The simplicity of his writing allowed me to comprehend and trust what he was writing. Griffin’s characters used both inner dialogue and outer dialogue throughout the book. Griffin included his inner feelings and thoughts about everything he experienced, as well as his specific interactions with different people from different parts of his journey. He is similar to many authors in this way, as many writers indulge in the inner thoughts and feelings of their characters as well as their interactions with others. Griffin met several people with different views and language throughout his journey. For example, he encountered many white people who used racial slurs and sexual language. The characters he wrote about were very believable, as they spoke honestly about racism and readers were able to see the views of racism during this time from a white perspective and a black perspective. As a result, Griffin’s journey has shown me how painful it is to be discriminated against due to something you cannot change and taught me how the power of unity can impact a situation.
Overall, Black Like Me exceeded my expectations. This book truly showed readers the evil of racism. It was a powerful, an emotionally exhausting, and a memorable read. Griffin’s remarkable journalism allowed me to understand how harshly African Americans were treated, due to their pigmentation. Black Like Me is remarkable story that everyone should experience. In conclusion, I recommend this journal for anyone, as it illustrated the challenging life as an African American in the Jim Crow South and taught several lessons along the way.