Black Like Me: 1961 and 2016

In 1961, the non-fiction book Black Like Me was published. Amazon’s description of the ground-breaking social experiment/social commentary appears below:

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.


Here at Howard High School, several English teachers have been teaching the book this year and have used the opportunity to include a history lesson in the Baltimore Riots and a discussion about race relations in America. I would imagine there are some pretty powerful conversations going on. Read about how students in Emily Warner and Hannah Fromm’s English classes are exploring the causes of riots in the 1960s and more recently in 2015 and we as a nation face today.

Throughout the third quarter, some English 10 classes are piloting a new research paper related to Black Like Me (1961) by John Howard Griffin. In the epilogue of his nonfiction text, Griffin discusses the building racial tensions that resulted in “exploding inner cities” of the 1960s. Students have enthusiastically begun to research this topic in connection with the city of Baltimore.

In this independent research project, students are exploring the similarities and differences between the Baltimore Riots of 1968 and 2015. Students have been encouraged to examine specific causes, effects, and implications in order to take a focused direction with their individual papers. Many students have chosen to focus on underlying racial and economic factors, while others are studying the role of police brutality or community-police relationships.

Students have been highly motivated to complete their research on this very relevant topic. Not only has this project strengthened valuable research and writing skills, more importantly, it has elicited meaningful discussions on race relationships with teachers, classmates and families. The project has provided students with an avenue for exploring racial issues, asking questions, and improving their understanding of racial issues in our immediate area.

If you haven’t read the book, check it out over at Amazon or in your local bookstore!

Black Like Me - Griffin

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