Black Like Me

A number of years ago, after my husband had been out of work for an entire year, Christmas looked bleak. I had $20 to spend—and that included getting a Christmas tree. I found a cheap tree, and went shopping for my children, then 11 and 8. I bought them each an item of clothes from the thrift store and their favorite candy bar. Then I spent the rest of the money at the library on withdrawn books. I can’t remember what all the book titles were, but my daughter’s stack included Black Like Me. She loved it and so did I.

All the recent talk of race relations and Black Lives Matter has gotten me to thinking about that book again.

Back in 1959, when race relations in America were strained to the breaking point, a journalist by the name of John Howard Griffin did a most amazing thing. A white man from Dallas, Texas, he darkened his skin in order to pass as black, then he started a journey through the Deep South. For six weeks he traveled through the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in an effort to see first-hand what life was like for people on the other side of the color line. Being a good journalist, he kept a detailed account of everything that happened to him, whether good, bad, or indifferent. The journal was published as a book titled Black Like Me. And what a powerful book it was. And is.

If you think you saw it as a movie, you probably did. I haven’t seen it, but I know it was released, starring James Whitmore.

I think I’ll get that book and read it again.

And with Christmas just around the corner, I think I’ll go to the library and do some shopping.


“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.  The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

Albert Einstein

About kaystrom

Kay Marshall Strom, who am I? Well, I’m a traveler, a railer against social injustice, a passionate citizen of the world. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a 21st century abolitionist who speaks out against slavery of all kinds. I am a beach walker and a gardener and the off-key singer of songs. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Most people, though, know me as a writer and a speaker. So here is a bit more about that part of my life: Of my 43 published books, seventeen have been translated into foreign languages, and two have been optioned for movies. My writing credits include magazine articles, books for children, short stories, television scripts and two prize-winning screenplays. I love to write, and speak, about topics close to my heart. I speak at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. And because I enjoy travel, I even speak on cruise ships. Because I don’t see how a writer can really reflect another people and land without spending time there, I’ve been trekking through India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, Sudan, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, Japan and South Korea, tape recorder and camera in hand, to gather stories from the world-wide family of God. Thanks to my “virtual friendship” with John Newton, 17th century slave ship captain turned preacher, I traveled through Ireland. In West Africa I toured an old slave fortress off the coast and saw a tiny set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. I was struck dumb. From that horror came a story question, and from that question, my foray into fiction: The Grace in Africa trilogy. Come join me as I travel and rail against injustice. Maybe you will choose to be a 21st century abolitionist too.
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14 Responses to Black Like Me

  1. Lisa Strom says:

    I can lend you my copy.
    It’s the original.

  2. Oh gosh – the story is amazing, Kay. But the dialog with you and Lisa–I’m crying. What a treasure – what a legacy of love.

    • kaystrom says:

      Now I’m crying, Jeanette. How can I take such a wonderful relationship for granted? You’re right, it is a treasure. Thank you for reminding me of that fact.
      Blessed Christmas to you, my friend.

  3. I loved that book, but completely forgot about it. I’ll have to go looking for it again so I can let my boys read it. Gracias, Miss Kay!

    • kaystrom says:

      De nada. It does warrant going back and reading again. In April, tell me your thoughts about it. We’re about due for a good catching up talk anyway, aren’t we?
      Blessed Christmas!

  4. Jean Stewart says:

    What a great post, as always. As a Georgia native growing up in the 50’s, I cringe to think of how normal we thought of segregation. In our town we didn’t see any violence or cruelty, but that acceptance of separation makes me sad to remember. And I, too, was touched by Lisa’s reply.
    Blessed Christmas to you and yours, and hugs to Dan, dear mentor.

    • kaystrom says:

      If we are wise and open, we grow and change. I cannot think of a more caring and gracious person than you, Jean. Thank you so much for your addition to this post.
      Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

  5. Twilah Kaldenberg says:

    I remember another story about those years when Larry was out of work. You thought your witness to your neighbors was going to be how quickly God answered your prayers for another job. Later, the neighbors told you that your steady faith during a difficult long spell without income was a powerful witness.

    • kaystrom says:

      You have a such a good memory, Twilah! I love the pieces you add to the puzzle of my life. Thank you.
      Remember all those Christmases we spent together? Thank you for those memories, too.
      Blessed Christmas to you and Tom and the family/

  6. anina swan says:

    Thank you Kay. What a wonderful suggestion! Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  7. I totally remember reading this. A huge influence on me. I lived in Houston, Texas when I read this. Houston had a liberal side, being an international city, yet could be very racist. My experiences away from the prejudice around me, was all through books. Writing does open our minds and hearts.

    • kaystrom says:

      Yes, it certainly does open minds and hearts. I wonder how different your reading of the book (as a Texas) was from mind (as a Californian). If at all. It certainly had an influence on me, too.

      It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to be a writer, isn’t it?

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