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

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DECEMBER 2, 1959


The author decides to stay for two days at a monastery. He boards a bus and soon realizes that the white driver has mastered one of the techniques of degrading the Negro. But an elderly Negro woman is polite to him in spite of his bad manners, which only enrages him.

At the monastery the author asks a monk whether Negroes came there as guests to spend a few days and the whites objected to it in any way. He shows the monk the booklet written by a white priest in which most of the stereotypes and cliches about the Negro are discounted. Then a young, white, Southern college instructor meets him and shares with him his unique, liberated and anti racist views and tells him that his views are so different from that of his family that he no longer has any contact with them.


The first part of today’s entry is about both racism and humanism in society at one and the same time and place. There is the racism of the white bus driver who refuses to be courteous to the Negro passengers who have paid as much as any white for their tickets, even though they are well dressed and respectable. Then in stark and sharp contrast, there is the humanism of one elderly Negro woman who politely thanks him, which enrages the driver but amuses the other Negroes. Humanism defeating racism softly and kindly. The iron fist in a velvet glove.

The next part of the diary describes the author’s two days at a monastery to which he goes for some rest and relaxation and to get away from the racism that has become part of his daily existence. True to its kind, the monastery is a place where, as the author himself describes it, -- the crusts of one’s life fall away in the deep hush of eternity. This is an example of the powerful imagery. The author converses with a monk there. The monk’s conversations with the author reveal him to be a true follower of Christianity. He is completely against people who interpret the religious belief to suit their own ideas.

Then there is the description of a humane white, who the author meets in the monastery. A young Southern white college instructor whose liberated views of the Negro are in such contradiction to those of his parents and uncles, that he no longer went home to visit them. Truly he is an example of white heroism personified!

DECEMBER 4, 1959


Griffin checks into a white luxury hotel in Atlanta, as a white, but is treated with utmost suspicion and discourtesy. Meanwhile he decides to do a story on Atlanta’s Negro business and civic leaders. A young, white photographer assists him in doing this story.


The author’s white racial purity is doubted by extremely color conscious whites. This occurs when as a ‘not so fair’ white he checks into a white luxury hotel. He is treated not just inhospitably, but with utmost suspicion and discourtesy and is even asked to pay in advance for a phone call.

In contrast the next part of the diary describes the white photographer who joins the author to do a story on Atlanta’s Negro business and civic leaders. The author begins to like him almost immediately after meeting him. Griffin believes that he is a ‘gentleman in every way.’


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