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John Howard Griffin author's photo

Known primarily as the author of the modern classic, Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1920-1980) was a true Renaissance man. Having fought in the French Resistance and been a solo observer on an island in the South Pacific during World War II, he became a critically-acclaimed novelist and essayist, a remarkable photographer and musicologist, and a dynamic lecturer and teacher. On October 28, 1959, after a decade of blindness and a remarkable and inexplicable recovery, John Howard Griffin dyed himself black and began an odyssey of discovery through the segregated American South. The result was Black Like Me, arguably the single most important documentation of 20th century American racism ever written.

Because of Black Like Me, Griffin was personally vilified, hanged in effigy in his hometown, and threatened with death for the rest of his life. Griffin's courageous act and the book it generated earned him international respect as a human rights activist. Griffin worked with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Dick Gregory, Saul Alinsky, and NAACP Director Roy Wilkins during the Civil Rights era. He taught seminars at the University of Peace with Nobel Peace Laureate Father Dominique Pire, and delivered hundreds of lectures worldwide. Earlier, during a decade of blindness (1947-1957), he wrote novels. His 1952 bestseller, The Devil Rides Outside was a test case in a controversial censorship trial that was settled in his favor by the US Supreme Court. Later in his life, Griffin was also recognized for his magnificent black & white photographic portraits, which were featured in his photographic books A Hidden Wholeness: The Visual World of Thomas Merton (Griffin was also Thomas Merton's biographer) and Jacques Maritain: Homage in Words and Pictures.

On February 27, 2011, the Mansfield Public Library was designated a National Literary Landmark due to its association with John Howard Griffin. Here is Laura Bush unveiling the plaque.

Read a report on the event by [Michael Swellander,] Texas Public Radio arts blogger.

Don't miss the documentary film, [Uncommon Vision: The Life and Times of John Howard Griffin] and Robert Bonazzi's biographical study, [Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin and the Story of Black Like Me]

Titles Published by Wings Press: