One summer during the early 1960’s civil rights movement, I would be drawn daily to my window, hearing and seeing a gathering from the black community sing outside the residence of the Governor of Ohio, Pete Seeger’s song, “We Shall Overcome.” Also made popular by Joan Baez, this was the signature song of the civil rights movement. But it was the book, however, Black Like Me, which informed me of the meaning of racism in America at that time. A memoir published in 1961, it was written by journalist and race issues specialist John Griffin, who wanted to live first hand life as a Negro in the South in order to understand the civil rights movement from the Negro’s perspective. He underwent elaborate procedures to alter his appearance. He left his comfortable life as a white Southerner and began his research in New Orleans, later traveling to other states. Reading of his experiences as a young teen opened my mind, leading to a visceral understanding of why the civil rights movement was so strong, and why the black community gathered to spread their message with that poignant song.
Reviewed by: CB
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