Black Like Me

by

John Howard Griffin

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Bill Williams Character Analysis

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, eventually giving Griffin tips about how best to navigate the hazardous streets of Hattiesburg, where a black man can quickly find himself in grave danger at the hands of racists. What’s more, Bill becomes a model of courage when he refuses to let the bigoted bus driver keep him from getting off at a rest stop to use the bathroom. While the driver yells at him to come back, Bill simply pretends he can’t hear, and when he returns, he points out that he heard the driver calling somebody named “Boy,” which is not his name. He then triumphantly returns to his seat, and all of the black passengers regard him as a “hero.”
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Bill Williams Character Timeline in Black Like Me

The timeline below shows where the character Bill Williams appears in Black Like Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
November 14-15, 1959
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...bus stops in Slidell, a new driver comes on, as does a black man named Bill Williams, who sits next to Griffin and makes pleasant conversation, eventually offering him advice about... (full context)
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
...use the restrooms. After letting the white people off, though, he blocks the door. However, Bill—who is in front of Griffin—quickly slides beneath the driver’s arm and strides away. “Hey, boy,... (full context)
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
When Bill returns to the bus, the driver says, “Didn’t you hear me call you?” “I sure... (full context)
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
Upon the bus’s arrival in Hattiesburg, Bill helps Griffin find a place to stay and hails him a cab. After parting ways... (full context)
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...gives up and calls the only person he knows nearby, a journalist named P.D. East. Billie, his wife, answers the phone and tells Griffin that P.D. will pick him up and... (full context)
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...his home. It was breaking the ‘Southern rule’ somehow.” When he arrives at P.D.’s house, Billie greets him kindly but makes “gallows humor” jokes about the entire situation, which help ease... (full context)