Day 38 in #BookSpine365. Visit a title a day from my bookshelf. Month Two.
You ever read one or those type of books that impact you from the first paragraph, the first line or sentence? Enter Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. My obviously wrinkled and battered trade paperback copy has stood the test of time in its 1976 copyright. The book is old. Very old. As in first edition, 1960 old. During this title's 66th printing at the time, over five million copies were already sold and counting. The book has already celebrated its 50th anniversary, and has sold many more. There's yellowing in the pages, and dogearred pages. Inscription unbeknownst to me from previous owner. Looks like..."Ginnie Herbert. Ya friend, L. B." in blue ink. I wrote my name at least seven times in it. I was young. I really wanted no one to have this book once I acquired it. Wait...where did I get it from? It's way too old for me to remember, and I would be giving away my age.
Speaking of age...
Not only was it required reading during my school years, I found it intriguing in my spare time to read about a white man temporarily darkening his skin, shaving his hair, and entering the Deep South to pass for African American. Not only was John Howard Griffin a novelist, he found the resounding urge to experience discrimination firsthand, pondering upon this experiment as the idea haunted him. Griffin understood what many didn't accept at the time: no one has any control over the color of their skin. You can't choose how you were born. So, why discriminate, and furthermore-what if a white man experienced this undercover?
The Negro. The South. These are details. The real story is the universal one of men who destroy the souls and bodies of other men (and in the process destroy themselves) for reasons neither really understands. It is the story of the persecuted, the defrauded, the feared and detested. I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any "inferior" group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same...
The book begins as Griffin documents his journey in journalistic style beginning October 28, 1959. The experience continues in the 188 pages, where he hitchhikes, walks, bussed, and lived in what began as an scientific study of the Negro in the South, but ended in a published journal filled with experiences beyond data to show the honesty and rawness of living in a time where the American black citizen was more than segregated. This books also offers hope. Beauty. Griffin met people along the way. Learned things. It is in this story that many seen that we are not different after all.
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
Format: Non-Fiction. Softcover, mass market paperback. 188 pages. ©1976 Signet
Contents: Reviews, ad pages, half title page, preface, epilogue.