Critical Context

It would be easy to dismiss Black Like Me as a naïve and dated work, yet it would be a mistake to do so. The book retains a powerful appeal, especially for young adult readers, because of its simple style and fast pace, coupled with its author’s naïveté. No previous knowledge of segregation in the South is necessary to comprehend or to appreciate the work.

As a historical document, Black Like Me does a superb job of personalizing the day-to-day realities of segregation. As a journalistic piece, Black Like Me provides a good model of first-person, narrative reporting. As a memoir, it shows a person deeply affected by his experiences; at times, the work seems therapeutic for Griffin, a means for him to relieve his anger and frustration over the injustice that he perceived. As a work of literature, Black Like Me is most useful as a means of introducing young readers to more sophisticated autobiographical writings set in the South, such as Richard Wright’s Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (1945) and Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi: An Autobiography (1970). As an introduction to African-American autobiography and memoir—a very important young adult genre—Black Like Me continues to educate readers.