Black Like Me (1964)

 |  Drama  |  20 May 1964 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.8/10 from 415 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 10 critic

Based on the true story of a white reporter who, at the height of the civil-rights movement, temporarily darkened his skin so that he could experience the realities of a black man's life in the segregated South.


0Check in

Watch Now

Free at IMDb




Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

An extremely bigoted white man finds out the hard (and somewhat humorous) way what it's like being a black man, firsthand!

Director: Melvin Van Peebles
Stars: Godfrey Cambridge, Estelle Parsons, Howard Caine
Golden Boy (1939)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Despite his musical talent, Joe Bonaparte wants to be a boxer.

Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, William Holden
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.

Director: Richard Brooks
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives
Biography | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

True story of the life of Jimmy Piersall, who battled mental illness to achieve stardom in major league baseball.

Director: Robert Mulligan
Stars: Anthony Perkins, Karl Malden, Norma Moore
Dutchman (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A sinister, neurotic white girl Lula, with the provocation of her lovely, half-naked body and of her startlingly lascivious speech, lures to his doom a good-looking young black man Clay, a ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Harvey
Stars: Shirley Knight, Al Freeman Jr., Frank Lieberman
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

After a black man's daughter is killed by the KKK, he seeks revenge by becoming a Klansman.

Director: Ted V. Mikels
Stars: Richard Gilden, Rima Kutner, Harry Lovejoy
Blackenstein (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.2/10 X  

Eddie is a Vietnam veteran who loses his arms and legs when he steps on a land mine, but a brilliant surgeon is able to attach new limbs. Unfortunately an insanely jealous assistant (who ... See full summary »

Director: William A. Levey
Stars: John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue
Action | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head. Both are annoyed at the success of the Reverend Deke O'Mailey who is selling trips ... See full summary »

Director: Ossie Davis
Stars: Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A gangster in Harlem must rescue his ex-wife, who has been kidnapped by the Mafia.

Director: Larry Cohen
Stars: Fred Williamson, Julius Harris, Gloria Hendry
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A proud black man and his school-teacher wife face discriminatory challenges in 1960s America.

Director: Michael Roemer
Stars: Ivan Dixon, Abbey Lincoln, Julius Harris
White Like Me (2013)
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

In White Like Me, anti-racist educator Tim Wise explores race and racism in the US through the lens of whiteness and white privilege.

Director: Scott Morris
Stars: Tim Wise
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

This military service comedy chronicles the misadventures of the U.S.S. Bustard in Japan. The crew has stolen a Buddha statue from a Japanese village, which if discovered missing would ... See full summary »

Director: Alan Rafkin
Stars: Doug McClure, Nancy Kwan, James Whitmore


Cast overview, first billed only:
John Finley Horton
Thomas Newcomb
Robert Gerringer ...
Ed Saunders
Eli Carr
John Marriott ...
Thelma Oliver ...
Lenka Peterson ...
Lucy Horton (as Lenka Petersen)
P. Jay Sidney ...
Frank Newcomb (as P.J. Sidney)
Billie Allen ...
Alan Bergmann ...
Charles Maynard
Stanley Brock ...


Black Like Me is the true account of John Griffin's experiences when he passed as a black man. John Horton takes treatments to darken his skin and leaves his home in Texas to travel throughout the South. At one stop, Horton encounters a black shoe shine man, Burt Wilson, who befriends him and shows him how to "act right" so that he can fit more easily into the African American culture. It is through Wilson that Horton learns the art of shining shoes. Most of his encounters with whites are quite degrading and disturb him. As a hitchhiker, John meets several white men who refer to black men and women in disparaging ways which angers John. Throughout the movie, John is harassed and persecuted by whites without reason. In one of his many stops throughout the South, John finds himself on a park bench sitting by a white woman. A white man walks by and says, "You'd better find another place to sit." Even though he had a college degree, menial jobs were all that he could find. John meets ... Written by Broncine G. Carter

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"I changed the color of my skin... now I know what it feels like to be BLACK!" See more »








Release Date:

20 May 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Czarny jak ja  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Classified X (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Flawed but important book; flawed but minor movie
25 June 2007 | by (Jersey City, New Jersey) – See all my reviews

Obviously hampered by a small "independent" budget and the casting of James Whitmore (a fine stage actor who, unlike the original author of the book, John Howard Griffin, simply cannot believably pass for a black man) in the lead, director Carl Lerner's screenplay (co-written with Gerda Lerner and an uncredited Paul Green) shuns Griffin's chronological story telling through dated diary entries and rearranges the events Griffin told so well to surprisingly LESS dramatic effect, but it gives a movingly honest portrayal of life in the South near the start of the long over-due civil rights movement.

The year this film was released my (white) family was transferred to a suburb of Atlanta, Ga. from a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C., and enroute we were stunned to see Klansmen in full regalia out on the interstate in North Carolina inspecting cars coming down from the north. It was just one of those things one had to live with at the time

  • like civil rights workers being murdered and their killers, when

caught, being acquitted by all white juries - but this film manages, despite honestly showing the unremitting low grade caution every black person had to live with, and the blatant racism of a few Southern whites, to also be fair to the majority which was merely oblivious to - and sometimes even quietly disapproving of the evil around them - who wouldn't intentionally hurt a black person.

This well meaning majority,unintentionally perpetuating what they saw as "something they couldn't do anything about," eventually came around
  • and the book helped, even if the movie went largely unseen.

One of the most effecting - but at the same time least persuasive - sections of the film comes late, when Whitmore/Griffin's character tries to justify his actions to a rising young black activist (excellently played to type by Al Freeman Jr.). As it turned out, Griffin's book actually did help in the long struggle for equality, bringing the reality of a shame to the attention of the rest of the nation which needed the reminder as it demanded and helped the South come into the 20th Century, but the film only touches on the screams of outrage from the South at the mirror being held up so honestly to something they did not wish to see.

This was only a few years after the "Stars and Bars" (the old Confederate Battle Flag alluded to so effectively in the opening credits of this film) was pointedly added to the Georgia state flag in protest to Federal Civil Rights legislation. Bigots (self identifying and otherwise) called it an emblem of "local pride and heritage" - realists saw it for what it was in the modern usage and timing: a symbol of hate, rebellion and intimidation.

Times really have changed radically in the 40+ years since this film was made, and today the movie is chiefly valuable as a document of what life was like in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia during Griffin's all too brief (one month) sojourn on the other side of the color barrier. The street scenes and home details are perfectly observed. As one who lived through the period, I can testify the film is not over stated politically or socially.

The movie BLACK LIKE ME does not portray "every white person as a bigot" (though in my years growing up in the South, I never met a bigot who self-identified as one), but it does show how a rotten few can intimidate a complacent majority on any issue. As we let some politicians play "the terror card" to suspend out liberties in the 21st Century, or the pseudo-"religious" and "guilt by association cards" to deny the right to marriage to significant parts of the population at a time when stable relationships are in society's best interest, it is perhaps a lesson worth remembering. The sad thing is that for the most part, the only people who will bother to watch this flawed but decent film are for the most part the ones who already know.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Unintentional Humor? andy_looney
Movie Goofs romero_vincent
Discuss Black Like Me (1964) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: