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Free Study Guide-Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin-Free Booknotes
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NOVEMBER 14

Summary

The author reads the news about how a Mississippi jury had refused to indict those guilty in the gruesome kidnap-lynch murder of Mack Parker, even though the FBI had compiled massive evidence identifying them. So the author decides to personally visit Mississippi, a state dreaded by the Negroes.

Before starting on his journey, he goes to cash some of his travelersí checks at a store, as the banks have already closed. But, he is refused everywhere. Only the white proprietress of a Catholic Bookstore willingly agrees. When he goes to buy a bus ticket he again receives the "hate stare," from the white woman issuing tickets, who also refuses to provide change for his ten- dollar note. Finally, under pressure, she hurls his change and ticket on the floor. Griffin learns that the waiting room is out of bounds for him and that he must go to the colored waiting room. When the bus arrives, whites are the first ones aloud to board.

In the first part of his journey, Griffin has a very interesting encounter with a Negro passenger. This man denounces his own race venomously and viciously. He soon earns the contempt of the other Negro passengers because of his haughty behavior. A considerate fellow passenger explains to Griffin about all the doís and dontís that he must follow while he is in Mississippi. Then the bus stops at a small town. Only the whites are allowed to go out to drink water or use the toilet. So one Negro passenger, in defiance, decides to urinate in the bus itself.


The bus then goes past the jail where Parker was violently dragged down the stairway, his head bumping against each step. Then it passes the courthouse where the jury had given the unjust and callous judgement and then the bus passes the creek, where Parkerís body was secretly dumped. Finally the author alights at his destination. He soon becomes the target of a car full of white brutes, wildly driving past, yelling obscenities and throwing tangerines at him.

That night, to momentarily forget the macabre death dance outside, the author tries writing to his wife, but is unable to do so. This is because the words of his fellow passenger keep echoing in his mind that, a Negro must never look at a white woman. One can see here that his Negroness comes in the way of his writing a letter to his wife. This shows the extent to which Griffin has become involved in his new life as a Negro. Then as another means of escape, he contacts a white journalist friend named East, who takes him to his home, even though it is embarrassing and dangerous. That night East gives him the manuscript of his very startling autobiography "The Magnolia Jungle" to read. It is so sharply incisive that the author just cannot stop reading it throughout the night.

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