Monday, October 03, 2011

A 50-Year Memory: A Devastating Challenge

October, 1961:  Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin's account of his experience becoming a black man in the pre-Civil Rights-era south, is published.

Griffin was a white native of Mansfield, Texas and the book describes his six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (occasionally hitchhiking) throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia passing as a black man.
It was an eye-opener for many, myself included after reading it in college a few years later and the civil rights was making more headlines. Even today, in a different era, it brings chills to the senses. I often fear we have not come as far as we think we have.

The title comes from the last lines of a poem by the great African-American poet, Langston Hughes.
Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

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