“The world’s landscapes are but the screen on which the past, present, and anticipated cosmic vanity of mankind is written. Land is the palimpsest of human needs, desires, meaning, greed, and fears”. James Houston’s vision of landscapes as reservoirs of the most fundamental aspects of humanity supports the cognitive value of traveling as far as interhuman relationships are concerned. This, in its interracial dimension, was a primary interest of John Howard Griffin. In 1959 the renowned white Texan journalist went on a tour of the Deep South, a quest preceded by a specific medical treatment resulting in Griffin’s skin turning black. The journey was documented in the bestselling memoir Black Like Me, which is a testimony of Griffin’s passing as a black man, the resulting alienation, dealing with “the hate stare” and, finally, him re-examining his own racism. The aim of my article is to demonstrate that, although some critics claim his passing was a failure (e.g., Kate Baldwin’s assertion that Griffin’s blackness is only superficial as the author sustains his “white” jargon both in thought and talk), the discussed memoir approaches the racial Other by sharing some vital features with the slave narrative (its purpose being the enhancement of communal consciousness or asking a white person to preface and thus authenticate the story).
Feb 14, 2023