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An unusual perspective on interracial issues
on 11 November 2016
A most unusual piece of reporting that even after this length of time, (John Griffin's investigative journey into America's Deep South took place in 1959), remains quite startling.
In order to find out what it was really like to be a Black Man in the Deep South at that time John Griffin turned himself into a Negro by means of medicine and a sunray lamp. Not one person suspected that he was not what he appeared to be, although he had to shave his head since he did not have kinky hair.
In this guise, he was able to learn from the Negroes of the South what their daily life was really like. Talking to a white reporter, not one of them would have dared to give their actual views. He was constantly shocked by his contact with white men in the region and their deep-rooted contempt for their black neighbours. He refers constantly to the "hate stare" to which he was subjectd, and also underwent a number of frightening and deeply shocking incidents.
The publication of his experiences after his return had deeply reactions. His account was published both in magazine and in book form. He also gave radio and TV interviews and numerous lectures. Adverse reaction caused him, his family and his elderly parents to move from his hometown in Texas to Mexico. He was also severely beaten up by the Ku Klux Klan and an effigy of him was hung up in the main street of the town where he lived.
The book is still in print and has many relevant points to make on interracial relations. The paperback edition that I bought was published in 2016. It contains photographs of Mr Griffin as a black man.
I was uncertain about such a venture before I started reading the book, but I found it extremely interesting. My only mistake was to take it on a weekend away, as I would not recommend it for light holiday reading! Otherwise I can recommend it unreservedly.