Black Like Me Essay

Submitted By MrsSimmons
Words: 941
Pages: 4

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is a non-fictional story about a Caucasian middle-aged protagonist Texas man named John Howard Griffin with a passionate commitment to the cause of racial justice in the years 1959 and 1960. P.D. East is an editor for a small newspaper in a Mississippi town and just like John; he is a passionate advocate for racial equality in Southern America. Sterling Williams is an articulate African-American, who shines shoes for a living and helps John make the transition of living in Southerner New Orleans. Christophe is a well-dressed biracial man, who rides with John during his trip through Mississippi and fawns towards the whites, but is condescending to the blacks. Don Rutledge is a Caucasian photographer who photographs Griffin in New Orleans, coming to terms about his own social and racial preconceptions between white and blacks. George Levitan is the owner of a magazine called Sepia that John works for; he warns him of the dangers he will face when he changes his skin color and interviews him in conferences when the project is over.
The setting takes place in the five Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, where African-Americans are treated like tenth-class citizens, while Caucasians are treated as first-class citizens. First, in New Orleans, Louisiana, John changed his skin color to the color of African-Americans and experiences discrimination and tensions first-hand between the two races. Next, he travels to Hattiesburg and Biloxi, Mississippi for research and during his short stay; he received rides from strangers and saw that more public facilities were segregated amid whites and blacks. Then, John goes to Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama where he discusses with professors about the social and economic characteristics of blacks and while he is there he notices that African- Americans in those cities have a determined spirit that Caucasians are bewildered by. Soon he goes to Atlanta, Georgia where it is proven to him that racial problems can be solved and will prevail with time. Finally, when John goes back to Mansfield, Texas after the project is completed for interviews and conferences, local townspeople and outsiders are giving him hate stares and threatening phone calls for abandoning his white race.
The first major event in the story is when John Howard Griffin wants to learn the truth of an African- American experiencing racial discrimination and segregation, so he decides to temporary changes his skin color to dark brown, but still keep his identity. In order to start his experimental project, he leaves his family to go to New Orleans where he got prescription medication and exposure to ultra violet rays that made him a dark-colored man. The second major event is that after endless hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and segregation, from his own inner white race, he decides to use his medication frequently so he switch back-and-forth between black and white society. By doing so he realizes that when he is African-American, blacks treat him warmly and with refine while whites give him hate stares and injustice; when he is Caucasian, whites gave him more privileges with generosity while blacks were obsequiousness and suspicious to him. The third major event is that he concluded his project and permentately went back to his white identity, but he was sad to leave the Negro world after being one for seven long weeks. On his bus ride back to Mansfield, Texas he was filled with emotions of love and dread because he was jubilant to see his family, but feared that his experiment would make him