In the mid-20th century, John Griffin, who was frustrated at the tension that existed between the whites and blacks, attempted to understand the bone of contention.
He decided to understand the life of a black man in American society by doing what many considered as crazy and unimaginable.
John, a white author, and journalist from Texas, who had gone temporarily blind while serving in the U.S. military, set out in 1959 to record one of the most challenging experiences of his life.
An experience that would clarify his thoughts and hopefully serve as a satirical narrative that would change the mindset of many people.
John Griffin decided to live in the American South as a black man for six weeks to see how a black man is being treated.
Griffin’s blindness inspired him to write about color when he sat in on a panel discussion about desegregation and found out that he couldn’t even tell the speaker’s races from their voices.
“The blind can only see the heart and intelligence of a man, and nothing in these things indicate in the slightest whether a man is white or black.”
A Life-Changing Adventure
Griffin altered his pigmentation to become a black man to make the United States light of the deterministic weight of color and race.
Having met with a New Orleans-based dermatologist, he spent a week (15 hours a day) under a sun lamp and took a prescription drug that works to expedite the darkening of his skin – Oxsoralen and shaved his head and arms.
He set out for American South with the decision not to act in a way the society believes the black acts.
However, he planned to eat at cafes run by Blacks, stay at black-only hotels, and travel with blacks.
Griffin aimed to know if he would still be treated with respect after darkening his skin.
In his book, Black Like Me, he wrote:
“I decided not to change my name or identity. I would merely change my pigmentation and allow people to draw their conclusions. If asked who I was or what I was doing, I would answer truthfully,”