Literature: Black Like Me

When Texan journalist John Howard Griffin released his provoking non-fiction book Black Like Me in 1961, the United States of America – mainly the Deep South – was still stuck in the midst of racism and segregation. Therefore, you need to appreciate, above all other aspects, his outstanding courage to stand up and raise his intelligible voice for human rights, at a time when most of his fellow southerners rather wanted to see a white civil rights devotee dead than an African American vote.
Although, father of two children Griffin moves to New Orleans in 1959, wanting to experience the true conditions, under which blacks had to suffer in the ghettos of America’s South. He consults a doctor to change his skin color by medication, lives, travels and suffers as a “Negro”, and pens down his sometimes desolate, sometimes hopeful experiences all around the soggy swamps and white beaches of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Even though facing “hate stares”, segragation, humiliation and various offenses (he has even been hanged in effigy in his hometown Mansfield, Texas, after the release of the book), Griffin proves his strength, arguing consistently and logically for the equality of all men (which has been unexceptionally guaranteed in the US-constitution – at least theoretically).
Looking at the aftermath of the release, one can easily observe that it was about time, time for a change. Still, Griffin was among the first few intellectual Whites to take a stand for his black brothers. Using all available means of the national media (books, newspapers, radio interviews), he tried to educate the openly as well as the unconsciously racist population of his homeland. By combining information from different statistical sources, he connects all the little episodes of the journal to one bigger story, “the story of how the Negroes are kept down”.
On one hand he argues very rationally, e.g. when talking to a white driver, who suggests that blacks have a lower sexual morality. Griffin explains with reason, that the poor living conditions in the ghettos cause the lack of morality. He also exemplifies how the inferior education of blacks in segregated schools purposely destroy the potential of those kids, and how segregationists use this tendency again to support that they are superior over the blacks.
·GRIFFIN, John Howard: Black Like Me, Braunschweig 2009