John is a white writer who spends six weeks as a Negro in the southern states. He later reports of his trials and hardships, he tells how he dealt with racism as both a white man and a black man. This book takes place in mostly the southern states. John travels from New Orleans, Louisiana, through Mississippi, and then into Alabama as a Negro. It started in October of 1959 and John returned home to Mansfield, Texas in December. For the next eight months John tells the papers, television stations, and radios of his experiences living as a Negro.
During those eight months he also has some threats towards his family, so they travel around staying at places they think will be safer. Mr. Griffin, as they called him in the South, wanted to know what it felt like to be discriminated by the color of your skin. He had a loving wife and 3 kids who he absolutely adored. As a very brave and curious man he headed into a scary world as a Negro hoping for the best. Sterling Williams was the shoe shining man. He was in his fifty and had a limp, which with he had to use a crutch.
He was very friendly and was a great help to John. . . . I stood in the darkness before the mirror, my hand on the light switch. I forced myself to flick it on. In the flood of light against white tile, the face and shoulders of a stranger a fierce, bald, very dark Negro-glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me. The transformation was total and shocking. I had expected to see myself disguised, but this was something else. I was imprisoned in the flesh of an utter stranger, an unsympathetic on with whom I felt no kinship.
All traces of John Griffin I had been were wiped from existence. . . . Finding out how it feels to be discriminated because of your race is a factor of both the plot and the characterization. The whole basis of the story was to figure out what effect discrimination has on a person. John then went through medical treatment to change himself into a Negro. After doing so he then walked the streets of Louisiana, spent nights in random hotels, and traveled at the back of the bus.
Just so he could feel the full effect of being a Negro. Characterization was also a big part. With out John wanting to do this nothing would have worked. He also didnt change his personality or even his name. Mr. Griffin had to be strong inside to deal with the harassment, heartache, and racism that he encountered. BY doing this project John not only got a better picture of how it was to be a Negro, but it also changed his outlook on life forever.