Little Known Black History Fact: ‘Black Like Me’

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After the publication of the book, the public response was divided. He received death threats for his experiment, but the book earned him international respect by human and civil rights activists. Griffin’s accounts of receiving a hateful stare from white people on his journey gave readers a truthful account of Southern hatred pre-civil rights movement. Unfortunately, his family was forced to relocate to Mexico when the rejection from his experiment forced Griffin and his family out of town.

In 1964, director Carl Lerner would turn Griffin’s novel into a movie starring James Whitmore. The movie received mixed reviews, citing that Whitmore was not convincing as a black man, but the storyline gave the blatant view of racism in America.

(Photo: AP)

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3 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: ‘Black Like Me’

  1. Thank you for this article Erica. Another great one! Thanks Charles Henry Atkinson for the additional history. John Howard Griffin was a remarkable individual.

  2. John Howard Griffin was born on June 16, 1920 in Dallas, Texas. He was the second son of four children born to John Walter and Lena May (Young) Griffin. He went to R. L. Paschal high school in Fort Worth, Texas and left at the age of fifteen to continue his education in Europe. He attended the Lycée Descartes in Tours, France and then studied French and literature at the University of Poitiers. He studied medicine at the École de Médecine. His experience in France led to his discovering the great racial hatred in his homeland. Blacks were not treated the same way in France, and this experience led to his commitment to understand racism.

    At the age of nineteen, he worked in the underground French Resistance Army as a medic, as part of his service, he helped evacuating Austrian Jews to ships at St. Nazaire to rescue them from the Nazis. He then served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the war in the South Pacific. He was decorated for bravery and was wounded in WW II.

    He was blind from 1946 – 1957 as a result of injuries he had sustained during the war. He wrote five novels during this period, of which three remained unpublished. The Devil Rides Outside and Nuni were published in 1952 and 1956 respectively. Remarkably, he unexpectedly regained his eyesight in 1957 and resolved to use this vision to do something good for racial injustice.

    Griffin married a woman while he was in the Pacific during World War II but later married Elizabeth Ann Holland in Texas. They had four children. Griffin died in Fort Worth on September 9, 1980 from complications of diabetes.

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