Saturday, June 16, 2012

John H. Griffin wrote Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin
It is the birthday of writer John Howard Griffin, whose best-selling book Black Like Me (1961) chronicled his experiences in the Deep South in 1959 passing as a black man after darkening his skin. He wrote of the discrimination he received from both whites and blacks as he traveled through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana. He used a series of prescription drugs, skin creams and sunlamp treatments to change his appearance. He also shaved his head so his straight hair wouldn't show. He traveled from town to town hitchhiking or riding the bus. He told of the struggle to find food, shelter, and toilet facilities. Bus drivers, shop clerks, ticket sellers, and others displayed hatred toward him. He was surprised some white men were curious about his sex life. James Whitmore starred in a 1964 film adaptation of the book. Griffin produced about a dozen books, including some photography volumes. He did research for a biography on his friend, American Trappist monk Thomas Merton, but didn't finish it before his death in 1980. His book Follow the Ecstasy: Thomas Merton, the Hermitage years 1965-1968 was published in 1993.

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