This summary below is a general overview of the book BLACK LIKE ME by John Griffin.


John Griffin decided to disguise himself as a black man and enter the deep south in states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to experience the hardships and social injustice every black man faced during the 1950's. John Griffin was a writer who decided to change the color of his skin through medication from a dermatologist and special dye to change the pigment of his skin. This would create on hell of a story, and in the end a stir of trouble.

The first trip he took was to Louisiana and discovered quickly the way white people treated a black man. They were not allowed to use the same bathrooms, could not enter the same restaurants as they had their own designated cafes, and could not be caught staring a white woman in the face. At times he found himself walking miles just to use the bathroom. He had many talks with black men and learned their thoughts and feelings towards white people. A statement came up that a black man can have a higher education and earn straight A's in college but come home and find no work which is given to an uneducated white boy. They also experienced what they called specifically a "hate stare" from white people. John experienced the harassment verbally and emotionally. White people used the "N word" as if they did not care, even on the bus while they sat right in front of them. The only hotels he could stay in at times were not

One thing that was looked down upon was giving in to white people. When John Griffin almost gave up his seat to a white woman on a bus he received stares and looks of fury from other black men sitting around him,

Mississippi was told to be the worst place to go in the South but John Griffin traveled there anyways. A jury gave no sympathy to a group of white men who purposely lynched a black man. This definitely stirred things up in the state between both races as it gave white people a free pass to kill a black man. While in Mississippi he felt like he was in what he called "hell." During his traveling by hitch hiking he discovered the sexual immoralities and fantasies white men had with black women. Prostitution for black women was key to feeding their children and maintaining a steady income.

Most of the men in Mississippi that picked him up, did so at night time. They were afraid of their own race than they were of the black man. John Griffin pointed out that the kinder white people were those of the younger generation in their twenties than their counterparts. After about three weeks, he grew sick of facing the struggles and decided to become a white man again. He let his color wear off while staying in Alabama. When he did this he felt like a free man. He was in a whole different world. The next day he would go back to being a black man and see the world change before his eyes.

Later when he released his story through a magazine called Sepia he and his family received plenty of threats. He became a star though by appearing in Time Magazine and numerous talk shows. His family had to be relocated to Dallas, TX and later on to Mexico to let things cool down. He witnessed a hanging of his body in his hometown, painted half black and half white.

The true meaning of the white man came out through the 6 thousand plus letters he received. Only 9 of them he stated were hate letters, while the thousand plus others expressed their feelings on the social inequality and that they would like to see it changed also. The white men who want to speak up can't always do it, but they expressed their concern through these letters.