Black Like Me
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Comany, c. 1961. Ninth Printing. Hardcover. Octavo size, 186 pp., in dust jacket, inscribed by John Griffin. Very good + / very good. Item #22080901
The year was 1959; while the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum, in many parts of America and particularly in the South, African Americans were considered inferior to whites and treated as such.
It was in this hostile environment that a white man, John Howard Griffin (1920-1980), decided to "temporarily pass as a black man and journey through the Deep South in order to see life and segregation from the other side of the color line first-hand" (n.b., quote from Wiki). He successfully disguised himself as such to the degree that those who knew him, both African-Americans and whites, did not recognize him.
Upon finishing his six weeks of travel Griffin wrote a series of articles for "Sepia" magazine, entitled "Journey into Shame"; this book, "Black Like Me", allowed Griffin to expand the text and it was published in 1961, at which point it became a best-seller. In the Preface, Griffin wrote: "it is what it is like to be a Negro in a land where we keep the Negro down...[it is the story] of men who destroy the souls and bodies of other men..."
Griffin would suffer for his activism, being beaten in 1964 with chains by a group of white men (likely members of the Ku Klux Klan); it would take him five months to recover from his injuries. He and his family were met with threats and hostility by members of his hometown, forcing him to take his family to Mexico for a while for their safety.
This volume, while not a first printing, made special by being inscribed by Griffin thus: "For the McGeevers (sp?) - mother, father / and children - / With gratitude and / joy to be in / your home. / Devotedly, / John H. Griffin" with the date of "April 30, 1964" written above the inscription in Howard's hand.
___DESCRIPTION: Bound in full white linen cloth over boards, black lettering and dots debossed on the front board and spine, top edge stained black, fore-edge rough-cut, black endpapers, Griffin's inscription in black ink as set forth above on the half-title page, stated Ninth Printing on the copyright page, a few lines from a poem ("Dream Variation") by Langston Hughes on the following page, the final line containing the phrase "Black like me" which inspired this book's title; octavo size (8 3/8" by 5 3/4"), pagination: [i-x]  2-176. In the publisher's dust jacket showing the original price of $3.50, photographic illustration on the front panel and spine of a man walking towards a doorway above which hangs a sign "Colored Entrance" with an arrow pointing to the left, the photograph in shades of red and black with white and black lettering on front and spine, the back panel wth four small black-and-white photographs with a short author bio, summary of the book on both flaps.
___CONDITION: Volume better than very good, with clean boards, straight corners with minimal rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, and entirely free of prior owner markings; some toning to the spine and a shallow ding at the top edge of the front board. Dust jacket very good, all component parts present and attached, mostly clean with some light dustiness to the white sections, sunning to the spine and light overall wear most visible at the head and tail of the spine, with slight loss of paper at the head of the spine (no loss of lettering).
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