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Free Study Guide for Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin BookNotes

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NOVEMBER 25, 1959


In Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, the author encounters a new atmosphere, that is, a unique and determined spirit of passive resistance by the Negroes and also their unity of purpose. This is mainly because of the influence of the Martin Luther King Jr. This policy that the blacks have adopted totally stuns and paralyses the racist whites. The Negroes do not react to anything and therefore the whites no longer have the excuse to show their cruelty towards them. Had the Negroes reacted, the excuse that the whites would have for their cruel behavior would have been self-defense.


The author encounters a different kind of Negro and Negro spirit in Montgomery. The author dramatically describes how, in Montgomery, the Negroís feeling of utter hopelessness is replaced by a determined spirit of passive resistance. Here, the Negro has committed himself to a definite stand. It is because of this attitude that, the white racist is bewildered and angered, as the dignity of the Negro actions exposes his own indignity. Therefore they try to provoke the Negro to physical conflict. Then he will have the excuse to repress the Negro violently. However, most often he fails and the Negro triumphs - a tribute to Negro fortitude and courage.

Both the Negroes and the whites face their respective dilemmas. The Negroes fear that one of their own might commit an act of violence that would jeopardize their position and justify the whites declaring that they were too dangerous to be given equal rights. And secondly they dread the painful taunting of irresponsible white men, the jailing and the frame-ups. On the other hand the whites are also haunted by two deep fears -- intermixing between both races and most of all losing their centuries old mastery over their Negro slaves.

NOVEMBER 27, 1959


The author decides to try passing back into white society, as now his heart sickened at the thought of any more hate. He stays in his room for the whole day and at night goes out for his food. He does so because he does not want to expose his skin to the sunlight, as he is waiting for his complexion to lighten.


Todayís entry in the dairy is about a historic decision by the author to stop the medication and allow his skin to become lighter gradually with time, as he has had more than enough of hate and hostility from the whites. This is a turning point in the book for the author after three weeks of excruciating Negroness.

NOVEMBER 28, 1959


The authorís decision to once more become a white man is nerve-wracking. He gives the readers a chilling example. While walking on a street, he runs into a Negro teenager who, fearing harassment or harm automatically pulls out a switchblade in self-defense.

Meanwhile when the author enters an elegant white hotel, in his white reincarnation, now no one snubs him. In fact a Negro spontaneously rushes to carry his knapsack and bow and scrape before him. After three weeks of continuous degradation, he considers this change as a miracle.


The author leaves the hotel at night, as the sight of a white man leaving a black locality might cause trouble. The author here compares and contrasts life and living once again as a white, with what he has been experiencing for the last three weeks as a Negro. He dramatically describes the taut tension he now feels when he passes a Negro teenager on the street, the same that he felt earlier when a white bully was stalking him. Only this youth is not a bully but is himself afraid of the author and so the situation is different.

After the three weeks of receiving constant humiliation from the whites, the author finds it difficult to digest the complete contrast in the treatment that he receives. He enters an elegant white hotel and the white clerks register him, surround him with smiles, send him to his comfortable room, accompanied by a Negro who carries his bags and accepts his tip with a bow. This change in attitude momentarily fills him with happiness as he realizes that he will now be able to do things that he could not do as a Negro. Yet, this white transformation is also traumatic as he realizes that now, once again, there is a great distance between him and the Negroes.


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