Black Like Me


John Howard Griffin

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John Howard Griffin

The author and protagonist of Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin is a white journalist who disguises himself as a black man to understand the experience of African Americans in the South during the… read analysis of John Howard Griffin

George Levitan

The owner of Sepia magazine, whom Griffin turns to for support for his project. When Griffin first tells him about his plan to pose as a black man in the South, Levitan (who is white)… read analysis of George Levitan

Adelle Jackson

The editorial director of Sepia magazine. Like George Levitan, Adelle is someone Griffin trusts greatly, which is why he meets with her before going through with his plan to darken his skin. Adelle tries… read analysis of Adelle Jackson

P.D. East

A white journalist who lives in Mississippi and runs a newspaper called The Petal Paper. At first, East tries to “fence-straddle all major issues” about race, ultimately placating his racist readers by refusing to… read analysis of P.D. East


A young black man Griffin meets on the bus from New Orleans to Mississippi. Cristophe is well-dressed and courteous in the presence of white people, but rude and confrontational when he interacts with black people… read analysis of Cristophe
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Bill Williams

A friendly man who sits next to Griffin in the black section of the bus on the way to Mississippi. In contrast to Cristophe, who is abrasive and menacing, Bill is warm and empathetic… read analysis of Bill Williams

Sterling Williams

An African American shoeshine living in New Orleans. When Griffin arrives in the city (and before he darkens his skin), he visits Sterling’s shoeshine stand on a regular basis, and the two men form something… read analysis of Sterling Williams

The Dermatologist

A white dermatologist whom Griffin visits in New Orleans when he wants to darken his skin. Griffin explains the entire project to the dermatologist, who is onboard with the idea at first but grows increasingly… read analysis of The Dermatologist

Mack Parker

A young black man who was accused of raping a pregnant white woman and subsequently thrown in jail in Mississippi to await trial. However, a band of angry white men kidnapped him before his trial… read analysis of Mack Parker

Griffin’s Host

A friend with whom Griffin stays when he first arrives in New Orleans. Because he doesn’t want his friend—who is white—to suffer the possible negative consequences of hosting him, Griffin decides that he won’t tell… read analysis of Griffin’s Host

The Café Owner

An elderly black man who owns a café near the local YMCA in New Orleans. The café owner engages in discussions about race with Griffin, Mr. Gayle, and Reverend A.L. Davis, making… read analysis of The Café Owner

Billie East

A white woman living in Mississippi, and P.D. East’s wife. When Griffin calls the Easts to ask if they can pick him up from the African American section of Hattiesburg, Billie is the one… read analysis of Billie East

The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean

A young black child whom Griffin hires to help clean out his parents’ house after they move to Mexico. As they work together, the boy asks if Griffin’s children hate black people, and Griffin assures… read analysis of The Boy Who Helps Griffin Clean
Minor Characters
Griffin’s Wife
A woman whose name Griffin never reveals. In fact, Griffin writes very little about his wife, though he does mention that she’s enthusiastic about his project and that she contributes to it by agreeing to take care of their children as a single mother while he’s gone.
A black man who owns the shoeshine stand, and Sterling’s business partner. Like Sterling, Joe is a kind man who doesn’t mind letting Griffin hang around the stand.
Reverend A. L. Davis
A black reverend whom Griffin meets in a New Orleans café near the local YMCA. Reverend Davis takes part in the discussions about race that Griffin has with other local community leaders like Mr. Gayle and the café owner.
Mr. Gayle
A black “civic leader and book-store owner” from New Orleans. Griffin meets Mr. Gayle in a café near the YMCA, where the two men take part in discussions about race with people like Reverend A.L. Davis and the café owner.
Don Rutledge
A white photographer who joins Griffin in Atlanta in order to work with him on several assignments for Sepia magazine. When they finish this job, Don accepts Griffin’s invitation to return to New Orleans, where he takes pictures of Griffin disguised as a black man.