Black Like Me


John Howard Griffin

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Black Like Me: November 1, 1959 Summary & Analysis

Griffin arrives in New Orleans, checks his bags at a hotel, and goes out to walk the streets, eventually having a splendid meal in an upscale restaurant. He marvels at the sights of the city, since he once visited New Orleans during the ten year period in which he was blind. Now he feels that “every view [is] magical.” Enjoying his plate of huîtres variées (oysters), he wonders what life will be like once he looks like a black man. “Was there a place in New Orleans where a Negro could buy huîtres variées?” he wonders. Finishing his meal, he calls his friend, who has invited him to stay at his house—something that relieves Griffin because he anticipates “all sorts of difficulties staying in a hotel” while he goes through the process of darkening his skin.
Griffin was temporarily blinded after an accident in the 1940s. As such, he knows what it’s like to move around without sight—a point worth noting when considering Black Like Me, since Griffin is so interested in how people judge one another based on how they look. Now, as he prepares to change his physical appearance, he braces for an entirely different life, one in which he won’t even be able to buy certain dishes because people won’t allow him into upscale restaurants.
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