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

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BLACK LIKE ME - STUDY NOTES / CLASSROOM GUIDE / LESSON PLANS


APRIL 11, 1960


Summary

The author and his family return home. The author receives letters from all over the country. Most of these letters are favorable and moving, providing support to what he has done. But the townspeople are still unrelenting in their open or veiled opposition.


Notes

This part of the diary is the authorís stinging condemnation of the silent majority, whose tragic silence condones not only this particular injustice, but also the destruction, by a small and powerful group, of social stability, peace and trust.


JUNE 19, 1960


Summary

The author receives 6,000 letters of which only 9 are abusive. Of the favorable letters, many in fact are from Southern whites. This convinces Griffin that the standard white of the Southern states is tolerant towards the blacks but is afraid to show this openness in attitude in front of his racist acquaintances. Griffin receives a copy of Justice Bokís speech on racial segregation, from him (Justice Bok). That evening as the author returns to his office, he once again gets a glimpse of the hostility that his townspeople have towards him.


Notes

This part of the diary explains why thousands of people, including many Southern whites, support the author. They confide how they are actually more afraid of their fellow white racists than the Negro. Only in the authorís own hometown, the local people do not forgive or forget. They still glare at Griffin with disapproval, stare hard with animosity or simply look away grimly.


AUGUST 14, 1960


Summary

Unable to bear the hostility of the local white racists, the author, with his family and parents, plans to move to Mexico, for a new life. But the author decides not to shift immediately, as he does not want the racists to feel that they have chased him out.



Notes

Todayís entry reveals the authorís powerful skill in imagery, as the author describes the barren and empty office, stripped of all its contents. This condition of his home is evocative of the barrenness and emptiness that the author feels inside. At the end of his quest he too has been stripped of all thoughts and emotions.


AUGUST 17, 1960


Summary

The white racists do not come for him as they had threatened. So today, together with a Negro youth, the author clears up his parentsí home. The young Negro freely discusses with him his thoughts and feelings, because the author has been a Negro for six weeks. The young Negro asks Griffin whether his children hate the Blacks and Griffin says no. He says that children do not learn to hate from birth. They learn these things as they are growing up. Griffin tells the boy that he and his wife will never let their children develop this kind of hatred. The author hopes that this situation between the two races is solved soon before it is too late.


Notes

Today in the final part of the book there is a very moving and perceptive discussion between the author and a Negro youth. Since he is now partly Negro or perhaps essentially Negro, the youth freely discusses with him the actions and reactions of the whites towards the Negroes. Through the discussion the author realizes that the Negro also does not understand the white any more than the white understands the Negro. And the most distressing repercussion of this lack of communication and hate and hostility has been the rise in racism among Negroes, who by hitting out at a manís whiteness, commit the same tragic error the white racist has committed against Negroes. Now many militant leaders are even preaching Negro superiority, to counteract white superiority.

Finally, the book ends tragically but also with hope, as the author wishes at the end that the Negro will be different, that he will rise to greatness, that he will build from the strength gained through his past suffering and will rise beyond vengeance. For only such maturity and sensitivity on the part of the Negroes can save the whole of American society and prevent a Holocaust that will destroy both black and white, innocent and guilty.

 


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