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Black like Me

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Professor Mosley

Book Review

15 September 2013

Black Like Me

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, is a remarkable non-fiction novel that relates the story of Griffins journey through the South in 1959 as a Negro. Having experienced life as both a white and a black, Griffin is shocked by what he sees and how much different life quality is for a black man than for a white man. Even though life for the black man in the South in the 1960's was not always a pleasant journey as the story is full of hatred, frustration and despair, ultimately the novel depicts strength, triumph, and hope for the black race.

Perhaps the most prominent display of progress in this novel in the blacks' quest for equality was John Howard Griffin himself. By darkening his skin to become black, he reached a world no other human had ever gone and he touched a place in civil rights history. First, he experienced something that no man had ever before and he spoke the truth about his experience, and second, Griffin essentially became the voice of the black man, as he could honestly speak from the blacks' perspective. This was perhaps the first time the opinion of the black man could be spoken, through the lips of a white, and not be scorned. By finally getting the true feelings out a black into the public, true understanding of their situation could be reached and true reform could be sought and achieved.

A second comforting display in the novel was the compassion and help Griffin received from strangers throughout the novel. Sterling Williams, his gateway to the black world, had hardly known him when he accepted him as a friend into his shoeshine stand. Griffin received shelter from a network of people through a stranger on a bus, stayed several nights in the home of a poor black man who was happy to share with him, and slept one night at a the house of a black man whom he had met on the highway. In the small restaurants Griffin ate at, there was always a level of respect and understanding between the waitresses and himself. On the buses the blacks were very friendly toward each other, as though they had known each other forever and were the best of friends. The blacks also seemed to feel compassion for one another - whether another black triumphed in a situation involving whites or faltered, they felt the emotions and bound together in the situation. The effort of these men and women to help a fellow man was extraordinary and showed a desire among themselves for love and brotherhood in the Negro community. The Negroes realized they could only succeed as a race was if they fought as a common unit, and the men who Griffin encountered seemed to understand this concept and live it out wholeheartedly.

Another triumph for the blacks was the independence they were seeking from white suppressors.

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