John Howard Griffin Question: You’ve had a chance to reflect on this question for at least 24 hours now: Do you think that John Howard Griffin fully understood what it meant to be a black man in the South in the 1950s? Why or why not? Journal below until time is up in the do now.
Read this Washington Post article about John Howard Griffin, author of Black Like Me. As you read, underline any sentences that help you think about this question:
Do you think that John Howard Griffin fully understood what it meant to be a black man in the South in the 1950s? Why or why not? *******************************************************************************************
In the fall of 1959 an obscure white journalist and novelist named John Howard Griffin, a native of Texas, went to a dermatologist in New Orleans with what can only be called an astonishing request: He wanted "to become a Negro." He was "haunted" by these questions: "If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?"
The book Black Like Me became a bestseller. It awoke significant numbers of white Americans to truths about discrimination of which they had been unaware or had denied.
I was one of them. In 1961, I was 21 years old, newly graduated from Chapel Hill. That it took a white man to begin my awakening is, in hindsight, distressing, but Griffin's story managed to put me in a black man's shoes as nothing else had.
What remains most important about "Black Like Me" is the force of the shock Griffin felt when he learned what it was -- and for many still is -- like to be black in America. In 1959 virtually none of the rights and opportunities that whites took for granted were extended to blacks, so Griffin immediately discovered that "an important part of my daily life was spent searching for the basic things that all whites take for granted: a place to eat, or somewhere to find a drink of water, a rest room, somewhere to wash my hands…”
Overall, the portrait that Griffin paints of the South is gloomy. Everywhere he went, "the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. [Whites] judged me by no other quality. My skin was dark. That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival." He became depressed. He "decided to try to pass back into white society" and scrubbed off the stain; immediately "I was once more a first-class citizen." The knowledge gave him little joy.
Black Like Me: Group Work In your small group you are responsible for answering one of the questions below using your books and summer reading journals:
Group 1: What was the experience of black men in the South in the 1950s? Find examples of their experiences or moments where they express their feelings/opinions.
Groups 2-5: Use your assigned section to find evidence that helps answer the guiding question:
Group 2: October 28—November 8th, 1959
Group 3: November 10-12—November 15
Group 4: November 16—November 25
Group 5: November 27—end
Elect a scribe and 1-2 reporters
Find 2-3 relevant pieces of evidence in your section to answer the question
Write the page number and a short description of each piece of evidence
Discuss the significance of each piece of evidence
Prepare your main assertion (e.g. “No, despite how empathetic he is, Griffin could not fully understand what it meant to be a black man because x, y, z.”)
Your group’s reporters will have 3 minutes to PRESENT to the rest of the class the following:
Your main assertion
Your best 2 pieces of evidence and an explanation of how they support your assertion
You must guide us to the text and read DRT aloud
Black Like Me:
Essay Outline Your homework this weekend is to outline an essay on the following prompt:
In Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin embarks on a journey that leads him closer to understanding the experience of African Americans in the South in the 1950s. Some critics have argued that Griffin never truly experienced life as a black man; there were always too many significant differences between him and the black Americans among whom he lived. In a well-developed composition, describe at least three of Griffin’s significant experiences as evidence in order to respond to this critique.
Your thesis should indicate whether you agree or disagree with Griffin’s critics and why
The experiences should be well-chosen and accurately described
Helpful Outline Organizer Note: If you have received this helpful organizer, the minimum requirement that you must meet in your outline is writing a thesis statement and supporting that thesis with at least 3 topic sentences with evidence. I am mostly interested in your knowledge of the book and for that reason you may choose to be concise and eliminate a full introduction and conclusion if you are worried about time.