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Black Like Me Paperback – May 6, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade; Reissue edition (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451208641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451208644
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (352 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Griffin's (The Devil Rides Outside) mid-century classic on race brilliantly withstands both the test of time and translation to audio format. Concerned by the lack of communication between the races and wondering what "adjustments and discriminations" he would face as a Negro in the Deep South, the late author, a journalist and self-described "specialist in race issues," left behind his privileged life as a Southern white man to step into the body of a stranger. In 1959, Griffin headed to New Orleans, darkened his skin and immersed himself in black society, then traveled to several states until he could no longer stand the racism, segregation and degrading living conditions. Griffin imparts the hopelessness and despair he felt while executing his social experiment, and professional narrator Childs renders this recounting even more immediate and emotional with his heartfelt delivery and skillful use of accents. The CD package includes an epilogue on social progress, written in 1976 by the author, making it suitable for both the classroom and for personal enlightenment.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up-John Howard Griffin's groundbreaking and controversial novel about his experiences as a white man who transforms himself with the aid of medication and dye in order to experience firsthand the life of a black man living in the Deep South in the late 1950s is a mesmerizing tale of the ultimate sociological experiment. Ray Childs' narration is both straightforward and deeply satisfying. A skilled reader, he incorporates different dialects to help listeners distinguish among the various characters. His ability to convey a full spectrum of emotions, including exhilaration, bone deep sadness, and gut wrenching fear is riveting. Equally fascinating is Childs' description of how Griffin's unheard of approach to studying racial discrimination changed his personal life and ignited a storm of argument and discussion around the nation. This recording deserves a place in every public library collection.
Cindy Lombardo, Tuscarawas County Public Library, New Philadelphia, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I read the book over 10 years ago.
Amazon Customer
Even more interesting than these experiences was the way in which Griffin was allowed to converse with blacks and whites on racial matters.
mwreview
I think that this was a good book for people to read because I feel like this man did a great thing.
DeNebra M. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

198 of 202 people found the following review helpful By Alex Malinovich on June 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked this up completely on a whim after hearing someone mention it online. It is absolutely an amazing work. To really get a feel for how far this country has come in 50 short years, and to really understand how far we have left to go, you need to read this.

As a white male, I've always been offended by the term 'white privilege', because it implies that I somehow didn't work for what I have. But having read this, I can finally appreciate it. My 'white privilege' has nothing to do with me not working hard and not deserving the things that I have accomplished. I have worked hard, and I do deserve those things.

But these are things that blacks never had the opportunity to do. No matter how smart they were, no matter how well dressed, or well spoken, no matter how *white* they tried to appear to blend in, they would never be given the opportunity to prove themselves on their own merits. Their opportunities were taken away before they ever had a chance to even attempt to do grab them.

And while I can definitely appreciate how far we have come in a relatively short time, I am now able to see with a fresh new perspective the things that are still wrong with our thinking today.
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165 of 171 people found the following review helpful By Mike Christie on May 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As I write this review I have my old copy of Black Like Me in front of me. It's a Panther paperback, printed in 1964, bought by my parents, and found by my sister and myself on their shelves a few years later. I can still remember the shock when I read this, at the age of perhaps eleven, at realizing just how inhuman people could be because of something as seemingly trivial as skin colour.
Griffin spent a little over a month--parts of November and December, 1959--with his skin artificially darkened by medication. In that time he traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, finding out at first hand what it is like to be treated as a second-class citizen--or, as he says, as a tenth-class citizen. Everyone now know the story of the big injustices, the lynchings, the civil rights cases, and for most people those are now just another page in the history text book. Griffin's experiences take the daily evils of racism and thrust them in your face, just as they were thrust in his--the rudeness of the clerk when he tried to pay for a train ticket with a big bill; the difficulty he had in finding someone who would cash a traveler's check for a Negro; the bus-driver who wouldn't let any blacks off the bus to use the restrooms; the white man who followed him at night and threatened to mug him.
I've heard people worry that this is the white experience of racism: that whites can read this book and feel good because a white person felt the pain too. I'm white, so I don't know that I can judge that argument completely impartially, but I can tell you that this book profoundly shaped my views on racism, and that any book that can do what this book did for me is a book that is good to have around.
One more thing.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By mwreview on October 9, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Howard Griffin offered one of the most important contributions to the Civil Rights movement when his work Black Like Me was published in 1960. Griffin approached his study on race relations in the South by asking a very poignant question: "If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make?." To answer this question, Griffin shaved his head and had his skin temporarily darkened by medical treatments and stain in order to travel through parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia as a black man.

Griffin had a deep understanding of discrimination even before he began this ambitious project. As a medic in the French Resistance Army, Griffin helped evacuate Austrian Jews away from the advancing Nazis. During the Second World War, Griffin lost his sight and was forced to live with this disability for over ten years. By 1959, Griffin was a published author and a specialist on race relations. Despite such credentials Griffin "really knew nothing of the Negro's real problem." Only by becoming black did Griffin understand what it was like to live as a second class citizen in "the land of the free."
As a black man, Griffin described the variations and similarities of race relations in different areas of the South. Although some states were more "enlightened" than others, blatant acts of racism were found almost everywhere Griffin went.
In Alabama, where Martin Luther King first introduced passive resistance, Griffin endured the hate stares from whites and observed that even graduates from Tuskegee Institute would not be allowed to climb the social ladder in the South because, "whites cannot lose to a traditionally servant class.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 25, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is said one cannot understand or empathize with someone else unless "you walk a mile in their mocassins." John Howard Griffin did just that, darkened his skin and took a walk into the Deep South to see how it would feel to be a member of a despised minority during 1959, the height of the Jim Crow years, when water fountains and rest rooms were separate for the races, when a black man or woman couldn't eat in a restaurant or get a hotel room. (It is said Bessie Smith, the great blues singer, died after a car accident because she couldn't be treated at a nearby hospital, for whites only.)
The book is of course dated, but it is unique in that it is a viewpoint that is undeniably credible. Here is a white guy, saying: "It happened to me, just because my skin was dark. Believe it." He suffers the indignity of finding everyday tasks that become almost insurmountable--to find a restroom, a bus seat, a park bench, someplace to eat, to be left alone with out fear of harrassment. And it's this harrassment and outright fear that changes Griffin to the point he had to finally abandon his project. He was changed by it.
The question I have is what would someone who chose Griffin's experiment find today? While Jim Crow is gone, the cultures still have a gulf between them. And since today, you won't see the "whites only" sign on drinking fountains that I saw as a child traveling in the Deep South, you should be sure to read this to get perspective on our history and culture. This is a brave book.
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