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 Then I spent the rest of the money at the library on withdrawn books.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.”