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Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin

March 23–April 7, 1960

February 26–March 18, 1960

April 11–August 17, 1960

Summary

In the wake of his article's publication, Griffin continues to do interviews and speak to the press about his experiences. On March 23, the Time Magazine interview hits newsstands. Griffin is very pleased with the magazine's sympathetic and supportive tone. He gives a radio interview with Mike Wallace, who impresses him very much. Like the David Garroway show, the interview is very powerful, as Wallace asks questions that will enable Griffin to get to the heart of his experiences. Wallace is so moved by his talk with Griffin that he orders his staff to air it at once.

Griffin then does an interview for French television, and his story travels around the world. He receives telephone calls and mail from supporters across the globe. In Mansfield, however, he is shut up in his house, as public hostility to his work has made it impossible for him to enter local stores. One café even places a sign on the door reading "No albinos allowed," a clear reference to Griffin. But the general reaction to his story has been overwhelmingly positive, and Griffin is tentatively optimistic that his family will be able to remain in Mansfield.

On the morning of April 2, Griffin receives a telephone call from a newspaper writer with the Star-Telegram, who tells him that a group of white racists has hung his effigy on the main street of Mansfield. Griffin cannot believe that the police would not stop this act, and feels that by allowing it to continue, the police have effectively declared their support for the racist groups. The Star-Telegram describes the event. Griffin's effigy was half black and half white, with a yellow stripe painted down its back to symbolize his cowardice. Not long after this happens, Griffin receives a tip from a local man that a hate group has made a plan to attack him and castrate him, and has even settled on a date. Griffin and his wife prepare to get their family away from their home as quickly as possible. They move in with some friends, the Turners, in whose house they hope they will be safe from attack.

The Star-Telegram runs a story a few days after the hanging of the effigy, reporting that the same hate group has burned a cross at a local Negro school. Griffin thinks about the innocent children who were forced to witness this act of hatred, and wishes that the racists had burned the cross on his own yard, where the children would have been spared.

Commentary

In this brief section, Griffin continues to focus on the public response to his story, both in the media and in his community. The media continues to portray his experiment in extremely positive terms, with the Time Magazine article, the French television station, and the Mike Wallace radio show all giving him praise and support. As with the David Garroway interview in the previous section, which they strongly resemble, these experiences affirm Griffin's belief in the essential goodness of many men and women around him, even in a society that is filled with hate. This belief is further bolstered by the behavior of Griffin's friends throughout his experience. Once things become too ugly in his community for his family to feel safe or to venture to the store, his friends help him in every conceivable way; more proof that goodness can flourish even amidst evil.

By the end of this section, things have become even more ugly than Griffin himself imagined. Though letters of support and admiration flood in from around the world, the people of Mansfield treat Griffin's entire family with threatening contempt. A half-black, half-white effigy of Griffin is burned on Main Street, and the police refuse to intervene; a cross is burned at a local Negro school; a plan is made to assault and castrate Griffin as punishment for his anti-racist agenda. Griffin is forced to move his entire family into the home of a friend, where he hopes he will be safe from attack.

Despite these painful developments, however, Griffin retains his inner courage and his extraordinary sympathy, even wishing that the cross-burning had happened on his lawn rather than on the school, because he wishes the children could have been spared the sight of it.

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