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Black Like Me Paperback – October 20, 2010
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“Essential reading…a social document of the first order, providing material absolutely unavailable elsewhere with such authenticity that it cannot be dismissed.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A stinging indictment of thoughtless, needless inhumanity. No one can read it without suffering.”—Dallas Morning News
“Black Like Me is a moving and troubling book written by an accomplished novelist. It is a scathing indictment of our society.”—Saturday Review
About the Author
John Howard Griffin (1920-1980) is known internationally as the author of two novels, Nuni and The Devil Rides Outside, five books and monographs on racism in addition to Black Like Me, a biography of Thomas Merton, three collections of photography, a volume of journals, two historical works on Texas, a musicological study, and The John Howard Reader. Born in Dallas, Texas, and educated in France, he served in the U.S. Air Force in the South Pacific, where an injury he received during a Japanese bombardment eventually resulted in the complete loss of his sight. In the 1950's he converted to Catholicism, married, and raised a family. In 1957, (after ten years of blindness) he miraculously regained his sight.
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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.
Summary: Black Like Me is a book written by John Howard Griffin who lived in the United States during the 1950s-60s era when the Civil Rights Movement was in effect. Living in Mansfield, Texas John has heard of the terrible conditions and treatment that African Americans face daily, but he is frustrated at how little he can understand in his own white skin. The truth will always be obscured to a white man, because white men don’t want to acknowledge how poor the treatment of African Americans is. So therefore, John decides to make the color of his skin black. This decision will not only impact his own life, but his family’s life as well. His family is supportive of his decision, and prepares for John’s absence. Along with this, a black magazine named Sepia agreed to fund John’s experience. With the aid of medication, UV light, and skin paint, John undergoes the process of becoming black. Upon looking at himself in the mirror, John doesn’t even recognize himself. He begins his journey in New Orleans and eventually moves down to Mississippi and Alabama which are notorious for their harsh treatment of African Americans. John discovers a whole new side to the world where finding a drink of water is a troubling journey and even being acknowledged by a white person is unheard of. Unspeakable stories and accounts are given by John Howard Griffin in his book Black Like Me. The story of a white man turned into a black man truly depicts the stark differences between appalling differences in treatment based solely on the color of one’s skin. Find out more about John’s experience by reading his book, Black Like Me.
I rate this book a 4/5 Stars.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the injustices associated with the treatment of African Americans during the Civil Rights era. It is a riveting book that will challenge you personally and leave you feeling unsettled (in a good way).
I feel that many of the issues being confronted in 1959 are still relevant today. Mr. Griffin was concerned that a divide was occurring among the people. One item that seemed to affect Mr. Griffin quite a bit was having easy access to bathrooms. That made me reflect upon the recent executive order issued by the President about the use of bathrooms at schools. The issue is not identical but can be viewed, if one chooses, from this historical perspective.
I read this book on Kindle and listened to an audiobook narration at the same time. The narration was by Ray Childs. His work was excellent. I spent very little for the extra audiobook and it was well worth it to me. However, I would not purchase ONLY the audiobook. The reason I state that is there is important information on the Kindle, at the end, that I also felt was important that is not included on the audiobook.
I noticed at times there were conversations that appear in quotation marks, as though the author had either recorded the conversations word for word, or had memorized them word for word. Of this I am skeptical. However the conversations purported to convey the true inner feelings of African Americans, and as such I feel they are important, of course. However, it would also be a convenient device for the author to extol his own philisophical positions. The were other times that I felt the same device was being used to convey the unspoken thoughts of white people. A white person would be quoted as saying something, frankly evil but preposterous, that the author would seemingly have no way of recording word for word. This did not really diminish the value of this book to me; it provided much fuel for thought. But I did feel there was a disingenuous aspect to this work that bothered me somewhat. Maybe I am wrong. I cannot prove that. But those were my feelings.
I consider this a very great read and I am very glad and grateful that I was able to read it. Thank You..