Griffins’s Experiment in Black Like Me

February 24, 2022 by Essay Writer

The novel Black Like Me follows a man named John Howard Griffin beginning in the city of New Orleans. Griffin had an unusual concept he wanted to pursue, he wanted to turn his Caucasian skin into that of an African American man. The reasoning behind his plan was to see what it was like living life through the southern regions of the United States as a “Negro” man. He wanted to be present in his experiment and wanted to experience it first hand up close. Griffin experienced much diversity and racism as hit time transitioned, “— that the Negro is treated not even as a second-class citizen, but as a tenth-class one.” (Pg. 15). The novel has won the Anisdield-Wolf Award which recognizes books with an important message about racism and the appreciation of different cultures. Black Like Me is a non-fiction genre written by John Howard Griffin first published in 1961.

Griffin is a Caucasian man with a plan of transforming himself into an African American man in the 1900’s and what it was like living in that time period. His six-week period traveling across the racially segregated states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama. His purpose for writing the novel was to bring light as to what being an African American was like and what situations they went through in their daily lives. Griffin kept all his journals therefore he would not leave anything out for his book. The situations in his book were real life experiences he dealt with to highlight the racism throughout those southern states.

Griffins argument in Black Like Me that he is trying to convey to the reader is that when you are an African American in that time period you will in fact be treated lesser and not as important. “This system of discrimination, an inculcated double standard, may vary in content from culture to culture, but it is always unjust. There are thousands of kinds of injustice but there is only one kind of justice — equal justice for all.” (Pg. 136). Griffin is explaining that everyone no matter what culture or race should be treated equally with no double standards. Griffin during this experience is trying to get justice for equality and prove to everyone no matter what race you might be, we are all the same.

The positive features shown in this novel is that you can be the same man on the inside even if you are different on the outside. He is showing to everyone that even as an African American man he is still the same man as he was when he was white. “I’m annoyed by those who love mankind but are discourteous to people.” He is referring to those who treat the African Americans as lower people. His work was very thorough and clear as to when he is explaining his transition into becoming a black man and clearly explaining his experiences as to which he had to go through. His work shows to us, the readers the truth as to what it was like walking around, living in the southern region as an African American and the things they were put through just to get by. He proved our beliefs that they were treated unfairly and below the average white persons.

The type of reader that would enjoy this read, is one that is curious as to how African American were treated throughout that time. Griffin teaches the reader a lot about how discriminant and racist people could be just because the color of their skin. Griffin had strong evidence towards this racism with his own experiences with these people, he had an inside look into the real world of racism.

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