Griffin is a white reporter who temporarily colors his skin black so that he may understand the life of a southern Negro. For about six weeks the author, who is from Texas, hitchhikes, walks, or takes a bus to four Southern states: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. In these four states, fellow white citizens treat Negroes horribly. He writes of his daily experiences, uyityiytwhich eventually forms into a novel. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, is a brilliant and blunt report on white racism.
Griffin's first stop on his journey is New Orleans, Louisiana. He finds racism in many different ways. One of his first racist encounters was with a white, weary woman who refused to sit next to him on a bus. .
"When they became tired enough, or uncomfortable enough, they would take seats behind us and see that it is not so poisonous after all. But, to give them your seat was to let them win"(P. 22). .
Griffin also goes to a drugstore he had entered when he was white. He found it different buying cigarettes because the cashier lady did not have her same liveliness the night before. Racism is also shown in the way the Negro is forced to live. He checks into the Sunset Hotel, a run-down Negro hotel, and meets one other black man in the hotel's bathroom. Griffin realizes that no matter how much racism the whites throw at the Negroes, they will not succumb to it and they will hold their heads high. While in New Orleans, Griffin reads about a case in which a Mississippi jury did not accuse those guilty of the murder of Mack Parker. This story inspires him to go to Mississippi, a place no Negro likes to be.
Before going to Mississippi, the only place that would cash his traveler's checks, after many attempts, was a Catholic bookstore.
"They would have cashed traveler's checks without hesitation for a white man. Each time they refused me, they implied clearly that I had probably come by these checks dishonestly and they wanted nothing to do with them or with me"(P.