NOTES on Black Like Me

by David H. Kessel

Black Like Me---35th Anniversary Edition---1996
(Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penquin Putnam, Inc.)
ISBN: 0-451-19203-6

For a short overview of Black Like Me...go HERE

(For a black and white and no "gaps" PRINTABLE version, go HERE)

Sections and Journal Entries

The Idea and Planning
New Orleans and Getting Ready
Coming/Going Out
On to Mississippi
Quick trip to New Orleans
Back to Mississippi
Mobile and Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama: Passing back and forth
Back to White/Atlanta/Pictures
Home to Mansfield
Back to Work: News out and Publicity
Meanwhile: Back at Home
Epilogue: 1977
Afterword: 1997


---very important...sociological perspective articulated (i.e. Insider/Outsider Debate)
---“social relation” beneath or behind the surface reality

The Idea and Planning

---considering to do it
---speculating on report of “suicide tendency” increasing among southern negroes
---decision to do it
---admits he knows nothing of the Negro’s problems or life

---goes to see George Levitan of Sepia Magazine in Ft Worth
---makes deal with Levitan...underwrite cost for exchange of publishing
---talks to Adelle editor
---goes home and tells his wife...she accepts what he intends to do

---meets with Levitan, Jackson, and two FBI agents from Dallas
---didn’t expect any help from FBI, just wanted them to know
---not change name or identity
---if asked, would tell the truth

New Orleans and Getting Ready

---arrives in New Orleans---checks into Hotel Monteleone in the Quarter
---walks and as seeing...before as only blind
---calls friend and arranges to use his house instead of the hotel

---found dermatologist willing to help
---oral medication with exposures to ultraviolet rays
---needed accelerated doses and rays...because of time factor
---medication used to treat vitiligo (white spots on skin)
---got prescription filled...took 2 tablets...two hours later, first rays treatment
---had arrangement with host...didn’t want to involve him for fear of later reprisals
---walk into Negro sections
---major thought: how to “enter” the negro world...”pass over”

---past four days...sun lamp treatments
---at doctor’s office...all is going okay
---Dr expressing doubts about the whole thing
---Dr expresses some racist beliefs
---walking streets to orient himself
---meets Sterling Williams...shoeshiner
---likes Sterling...considers him possible “entry” into the Negro community

Coming/Going Out

---last visit to Dr...more doubts and regrets from Dr
---decides to shave his head
---Dr offers help if gets in trouble
---Dr said...”Now you go into oblivion”
---shaved head...applied stain touch-ups
---looked at himself in the mirror for first time
------was shocked and observer and the observed
---at midnight...went out as a “negro” for the first time
---stood by white problems...around other problems
---started to experience the “differences”
---checked into the Sunset Hotel...barren and windowless, but clean room
---tried to sleep...but couldn’t
---went to common bathroom...met and conversed with another Negro
---felt less lonely and back to room...finally fell asleep

---out and about...eating and meeting people
---to the Quarter...went to Sterling’s shoeshine stand
---reveals his identity to Sterling
---Sterling’s “coaching” begins
---gets room in private home next to YMCA
---meets men in Y Cafe
---tells “truth” about himself to a Mr. Guillory
---followed by white boy bully
---back to room

---looking for luck
---more discussions in Y Cafe...meets Mr. Gayle
---more experiences in public
---bus driver wouldn’t let him off...only 8 blocks later

On to Mississippi

---reflections on his experiences
---decides to go to Mississippi
---trouble cashing a Traveler’s Check
---experiences “hate stare” for first time...then a second time
---difficulty buying a ticket...but finally did
---directed to the “colored cafe”...the negro waiting room
---meets “Christophe” on the bus
---denied going to bathroom at rest stop
---arrives in Hattiesburg...goes to Negro Quarter
---got room...couldn’t stay in the despair
---called P.D. East who came to pick him up
---talked and then read all night long...The Magnolia Jungle by East

---spent day at P.D.’s house...talking and reading

Quick Trip to New Orleans

---back to New Orleans with P.D.
---met Dean Gandy of Dillard University in NOLA
---bus ticket to Biloxi, Mississippi

Back to Mississippi

---hitchhiking in Mississippi
---refused bathroom at custard stand
---more rides...conversations about sexuality
---asked to expose himself to a white man...refused
---into Alabama on way to Mobile
---rode with very nice white man...all the way to downtown Mobile
---shares room with nice black man

Mobile and Alabama

---spent three days in Mobile
---walking, looking, applying for jobs

---hitchhiking to Montgomery
---got ride from racist white man...more sexuality talk and threats
---late rides...finally young black man stopped
---invited to man’s house for the night...with his family
---a wonderful and moving/emotional time with parents and the children
---the sharing of the Milky Way bars...had a party
---was Griffin’s daughter’s 5th birthday that day
---lots of thoughtful observations and ideas
---continuation of “nightmares”...worried him
---bought bus ticket to Montgomery via Selma, Alabama
---called his wife in Selma during layover
---noticed wearing off of color...started thinking of the “end”

Montgomery, Alabama: Passing Back and Forth

---in Montgomery, Alabama
---observed a “new atmosphere”: one of “a determined spirit of passive resistance”
---many “hate stares”

---decides to “pass back” into white

---actually does “become white again” Montgomery, Alabama
---passes for white successfully

---Montgomery seemed “different” a white man again
---went to black neighborhood as a white and experienced hatred in reverse

---developed going back and forth...
---in a night in same areas, as a white man
---bus to Tuskegee, Ala....trouble with “liberal” white man...i.e. turkeys
---on to Atlanta, Georgia
---tense moments on bus about seating arrangements for blacks and white women
---decides to end it completely...Atlanta
---changed back to white

Back to White/Atlanta/Pictures

---calls Sepia...Leviton
---goes to Trappist Monastery
---as white, sees what he’s been experiencing happen to Negroes
---interesting conversation with Monk
---another nightmare

---driven back to Atlanta
---awaiting photographer (Rutledge) to do story on Atlanta’s black business and civic leaders

---in Atlanta...reflections on racial situation and changes there

---had photos taken of him in New Orleans...skinned darkened
---revisited numerous places...with Rutledge...had to be careful and clandestine about taking pictures

---returns to white for final time...he’s done
---feels sadness (guilt?) for returning to white

Home to Mansfield

---returns home to Mansfield,

Back to Work: News is Out and Publicity

---Leviton gives Griffin an “out” forget publishing the results
---Griffin says it should be published

---the news is out...has first TV interview scheduled

---appears on TV show in LA
---does second one next day

---to NY...interview with Time Magazine
---mother has received “threat” call in Texas

---appears on Dave Garroway show on TV in NY

---does The Mike Wallace Show...went very well

Meanwhile: Back at Home

---at home...having no contact with townsfolk
---mail very much positive

---learns he has been hung in effigy on Main St. in Mansfield
---otherwise, townsfolk still fairly quiet about it
---took family to do some work

---arrive in Dallas for four days...stayed with family friends

---back to Mansfield...determined not to hide anymore
---things fairly calm
---lots of supportive mail

---Father’s Day
---of 6000 letters so far, only 9 were abusive
---neighbors and townsfold either supportive, abusive, or just silent

---parents sold home and moved to Mexico
---Griffin and family to go, too...but he waited alone to see if threats were carried out
---didn’t want to be accused of being “chased” out

---last entry
---no threats ever carried out...they never “came” for him
---cleaned out final stuff with aid of black youth
---final expressions


Epilogue---pp161-188 in 1977
---Griffin’s reflections and experiences on the Civil Rights Movement
---17 years after his experiment (participant observation)
---very insightful and interesting ideas


Afterword---pp189-192 in 1997 by Robert Bonazzi
---written by friend and “official biographer”
---interesting reflections
---wrote book about Griffin...Man in the Mirror


September 9, 1980---John Howard Griffin dies