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Free «Black Like Me» Essay Sample


The author, John Howard Griffin, develops an idea which lingers in his mind. It is about his desire to change the color of his skin to live as a black Person. This desire was much influenced by the fact that he had read about the high rate of suicide cases, witnessed among the black American individuals. This gave him the idea that there could be connection between the color of the skin and the rampant suicidal actions. Actually, he manages to convince his friends, his wife, doctors and even FBI of his incredible idea which he later achieved.

The author of the novel Black like Me is a white man, John Howard Griffin, a newspaper columnist, a student of theology and a novelist who came from Texas. With such experience Griffin is able to piece together a story in which he is the main character, the one who changes himself into a black man. It was October 28, 1959 when the work began. It is this particular time when Griffin came about with the dramatic idea of becoming a Negro. There had been a lot of incidences of black Americans committing suicide because of the discrimination they experienced because of the black color of their skin. So, he personally wanted to experience this discrimination at this time when racism was at the peak.



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He first met Levitan, the owner of an international black magazine, who despite his worries about Griffin’s life accepted the idea of funding this mission. Levitan offered equal job opportunities to both whites and blacks, on the basis of their merit. He also met with Mrs. Adele Jackson, who warned him but still accepted and gave him a go ahead. His wife also agreed to cooperate with him in this mission.

On the third day of the hatching of the idea, Griffin faced the darkest reality of how the blacks were discriminated by the whites. So he decided not to change his identity, since he knew that it was very important.  Therefore, he made his plans known to the FBI who promised to retain his name as well as his personality.

On the fourth day, he traveled to New Orleans to begin the process that would transform him into a black man. During the dinner time he wondered if these places would accept him being black. This still did not deter him. The following day came and the dermatologist did not object to his new assignment. He quickly prescribed an oral medication after which Griffin will be exposed directly to the ultra-violet rays. The author demonstrates a great determination and courage, despite the risk involved into the procedure of transform of the pigmentation of one’s skin. The author goes out from the treatment room into the poor and black dominated town, hence joining the black community. The author’s diary presents  the eighth day as the one when the dermatologist is described as one of the liberal whites who, however, harbored prejudices against the blacks. He says that ‘negro’s inherently love violence’. Later, Griffin, looking at himself in a mirror, panicked while seeing a huge, black man with a bald shaven head. He even could not identify that image. His fear accompanied with loneliness was as a result of his awareness of the fact that the time to deal with the black dreaded racism had gone. However, this did not stop him from completing his mission.

Now that Griffins is black, he started facing the sequence of racism incidents. First, when boarding a trolley in which a white man enters first and a black man can only sit at the back. Second, he is not allowed to order a soda or a glass of water from a soda fountain. Thirdly, when he checks in at the Sunset hotel, the conditions allocated to him are dreary and dim. This hotel conditions increases his sorrows and he becomes desperate and sad, similar to the name of the hotel. Through all this dismay, the main focus of the author is to unveil the black people’s solidarity and strength. The fact that among the Negroes he was always treated with humility, respect and kindness ascertained him that there were better human feelings, different from  those that come from racism.

Griffins visits Atlanta, a black dominated city, where he finds enlightened people, administration and a press favorable to Negroes. People are surprisingly intelligent. It is also learnt that previously any Negro who learnt how to read and write would have his hand chopped off that did not prevent them from struggle to get education.

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When he returns home, there is a great excitement and jubilation due to his reunion with the family. However, amidst this joy, the worst the memories of the life of a Negro still lingeres on and are slowly eating him deep inside. An author’s feelings are illustrated here in the best way. While back home, he unsuccessfully walks around, looking for a job. He learns that a Negro is faced with two challenges. These are personal discrimination or contempt for the color of the skin and the person in general. Both of them deepen the miseries of racism.

Soon the author stirs war against the whites who get angry and burn his effigy. He becomes displeased with the black majority who lacks confidence and courage to fight for their rights. Griffin is also not happy about the whites who burnt his effigy. On the other hand, he is happy with the minority blacks and whites who stand with him as well as support his experiment. He continues this struggle until August 17, 1960. This story addresses not only open disregard of the blacks in day to day activities, but affected all other issues, ranging from economy, education, provision of social services and politics. The author brings these historical events about in quite logical, consistent manner, which a reader easily gets and understands.

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In this novel, the author starts observing the manifestation of racism but does not understand how it leads an individual to committing a suicide. After transforming himself into a Negro, his experiment proved that racism affects economy, social interactions, and politics, intellectual and religious issues. These issues determine cohesion and development in the society. There is need for a public outcry against racism and the related issues. A most suitable method was needed to communicate in the most effective way which can reach all the parties involved. This is the main reason for writing this book. The author had to use a new idea of skin color transformation so as to effectively meet his objectives of fighting racism.

As the plot flows, the author is neither impartial, nor prejudiced in any way. He works fairly locally and legally, thus avoids unnecessary antagonism. As much as he arises to investigate the causes of racism, he shuns from actively campaigning for the rights of those deemed downtrodden and becomes a source of information which is meant to stir the society to action. Although this is done, partially through sympathy, it does not distract the author from his argument.

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Mr. Griffin had been a photographer while a monk. He had always made notes from the voluminous materials as well as he kept a daily journal about all the experiences he went through. He had kept a 188- page diary. These sources positively affected the work, since it is nonfiction that relies purely on the daily, true and accurate experiences. Actually, no more important sources were overlooked or not used.

The book is very well-researched and well-written. The information included is realistic as it can be observed from various points of history, where racism was or is rampant. It is also outlined and discussed in the chronological order. It is full of irony and other styles that make the story appealing. I find the courage and determination of the author and actor.  This is the book that is highly recommended for everyone since people who can get in the similar situation are spread all around the world. It is mainly about those people who find it difficult to interact with others who are the representatives of different races.

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The book Black like Me by Griffins is a novel in which the character who is also the main actor decides to transform his white skin into a dark one to become a black man so that he can experience the suffering that black people undergo due to the discrimination of the white. This is a difficult and seemingly ironical adventure, faced by the opposition of all sorts. With courage and determination he succeeds. This war on racism unravels other evils associated with it which the author finds an opportunity to expose. The book ends with the author drawing supporters and enemies from both divides of black and white races.


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