Black Like Me
Black Like Me, first published in
Griffin kept a journal of his experiences; the 188-page diary was the genesis of the book. When he started his project in 1959, race relations in America were particularly strained. The title of the book is taken from the last line of the
In 1964, a film version of
In late 1959, John Howard Griffin went to a friend's house in
During his trip, Griffin abided by the rule that he would not change his name or alter his identity; if asked who he was or what he was doing, he would tell the truth. In the beginning, he decided to talk as little as possible to ease his transition into the social milieu of southern U.S. blacks. He became accustomed everywhere to the "hate stare" received from whites.
After he disguised himself, many people who knew Griffin as a white man did not recognize him. Sterling Williams, a black shoeshine man in the
In New Orleans, a black counterman at a small restaurant chatted with Griffin about the difficulties of finding a place to go to the bathroom, as facilities were segregated and blacks were prohibited from many. He turned a question about a Catholic church into a joke about "spending much of your time praying for a place to piss".
On a bus trip, Griffin began to give his seat to a white woman, but disapproving looks from black passengers stopped him. He thought he had a momentary breakthrough with the woman, but she insulted him and began talking with other white passengers about how impudent the blacks were becoming.