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Black Like Me: 50th Anniversary Edition [Hardcover]

John Howard Griffin , Robert Bonazzi , Studs Terkel
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (349 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2011 0916727688 978-0916727680 Third Edition, Third edition

On October 28, 1959, John Howard Griffin underwent a transformation that changed many lives beyond his own—he made his skin black and traveled through the segregated Deep South. His odyssey of discovery was captured in journal entries, arguably the single most important documentation of 20th-century American racism ever written. More than 50 years later, this newly edited edition—which is based on the original manuscript and includes a new design and added afterword—gives fresh life to what is still considered a “contemporary book.” The story that earned respect from civil rights leaders and death threats from many others endures today as one of the great human—and humanitarian—documents of the era. In this new century, when terrorism is too often defined in terms of a single ethnic designation or religion, and the first black president of the United States is subject to hateful slurs, this record serves as a reminder that America has been blinded by fear and racial intolerance before. This is the story of a man who opened his eyes and helped an entire nation to do likewise.

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Editorial Reviews


“Some actions are so absolutely simple and right that they amount to genius. Black Like Me was an act of genius.” —Cyril Connolly, Sunday Times of London

“[Black Like Me’s] moral power has not diminished with time. It still has things to teach us about the past and the present.”  —Don Graham, Texas Monthly

“An important and classic work, well deserving of this new edition. . . . Essential [for] all public and academic libraries.”  —Choice

About the Author

John Howard Griffin was a musicologist who served, and was injured, in the Air Force during World War II. Blind for a decade, Griffin became an acclaimed novelist and essayist and when his sight returned, almost miraculously, he became a remarkable portrait photographer. Following his cross-racial exploration in the South, he was personally vilified, hanged in effigy in his hometown, threatened with death, and severely beaten by the Klu Klux Klan. Respected internationally as a human rights activist, he worked with major Civil Rights leaders throughout the era, taught at the University of Peace, and delivered more than a 1,200 lectures in America and abroad. He is the author of The Devil Rides Outside and posthumous works such as Prison of Culture: Beyond Black Like Me. Robert Bonazzi is a widely published writer and the author of Living the Borrowed Life, Maestro of Solitude: Poems and Poetics, and The Scribbling Cure: Poems and Prose Poems. He is the literary executor for the estate of John Howard Griffin. He lives in San Antonio, Texas. Studs Terkel was a cultural commentator, columnist, interviewer, and author of many books on American history and culture, including Touch and Go: A Memoir and The Studs Terkel Reader: My American Century.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wings Press; Third Edition, Third edition edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0916727688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0916727680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (349 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
198 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Important Landmark Works in History 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
5.0 out of 5 stars To walk in another man's mocassins 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Timeless! Should be required reading for all people.
Published 1 day ago by Denise Forbes
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and easy read.
His words are very visual so you can really get a sense of how people were treated back then. Interesting and easy read.
Published 3 days ago by Alan Demsky
4.0 out of 5 stars So interesting.
The author changed the color of his skin with the help of a dermatologist and traveled through the deep South in the year 1960. Read more
Published 7 days ago by K. Spangler
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Read it originally back in the 80's-one of the most significant and life changing books I've ever read.
Published 8 days ago by Eileen Elliott
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book by a great man
This is even better rereading it after 50 years. The new epilogue and afterword detailing some more of Griffin's life before and after are fascinating plus the description of the... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Barry Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected
Received very quickly, in fact impressively quickly. For all who work against racism, this is the best book to read. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Lorraine Renaud
5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME
Not sure how he was able to pull off this, but he seemingly did. I'm sure it wasn't easy & he had to have taken many chances that mos people would never have done. Read more
Published 1 month ago by jimbo
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful service,great product competent employees,great management...
very pleased,satisfied,fantastic.wonderful,delicious,lovely,really enjoyable,professtional,exceptional,acceptable,continue the good work and i will be a vry loyal customer and you... Read more
Published 1 month ago by alphonzo yates
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
book was fascinating, even in today's world. a lot of great insight. thought provoking. and service was just as promised.
Published 1 month ago by cynthia napoleon
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly great.
Drags. Little bit in the middle but overall an intense book that gives you a view of things from a perspective you could never achieve. Read more
Published 1 month ago by feeth
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Man in the Mirror by Robert Bonazzi

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