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Black Like Me (1964)

 -  Drama  -  20 May 1964 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 362 users  
Reviews: 13 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.


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Title: Black Like Me (1964)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Finley Horton
Dr. Jackson
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!"








Release Date:

20 May 1964 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:


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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in Murphy Brown: Brown Like Me: Part 1 (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

Black Like Who (!?) In Black & White
9 March 2014 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

For starters, I certainly don't condone vicious, hateful racism, but, with that said, I flatly refuse to accept that the guy in this movie was either black like me, or black like you, or black like anybody, for that matter.

In fact, I honestly don't think that he (with the white of his neck clearly showing under the back of his collar) was black like anything else that I've ever seen on the face of this Earth. He really wasn't.

And, if he really thought that he was black like me, or like you, or like anybody else, then I'd say he certainly had a rude awakening coming his way or else he'd better check himself into the nearest asylum, like pronto, for a spell.

(Seriously, folks!) I found James Whitmore's portrayal of a white man posing as a black man to be just about the most laughable impersonation ever recorded on film that I've ever seen.

It's a damn good thing that this picture was filmed in black & white, otherwise Whitmore's baby-blue eyes and smudgy, grease-painted, minstrel-show face would've been completely impossible for the viewer to accept at face value and, thus, keep a straight face at the same time.

But, with that aside, the fact that all of the characters (whether they were black or white) in this film's story totally accepted (without the slightest hesitation) Whitmore's character as being a bona-fide "knee-grow" clearly made them all out to be some of the absolutely most stupidest people (whatever their race) on the face of this whole wide world, bar none.

Hey, folks! I'm really, really trying to be fair-minded here, but, the truth is, even if I were clinically blind, Whitmore (with his blotchy make-up) couldn't have fooled me for even a split second that he was a "black-like-me" dude. Never!

Yes. I do realize that this 1964 film was probably made with the best of intentions in mind. But, in order for it to have raised the awareness of ignoramuses regarding such pressing issues (then & now) as prejudice and racial violence, this decidedly low-budget production clearly required 2 essential elements necessary to guarantee its commercial/social success. And those 2 essential elements missing from "Black Like Me" were (1) having a heart & (2) having a soul. It had neither.

Yeah-Yeah. I know I could certainly go on and on here, beefing & bitching about this & that (especially about Whitmore's character deliberately blowing his cover far too often) - But, in closing, there's just one more thought about racism/segregation that I'd like to add (with all solemnity) to this here review.

After what "Black Like Me" clearly showed me in regards to the harmonious and good-will atmosphere that seemed to prevail in the ghettos of the blacks who were living in the south-eastern States (circa 1964) - Shabby as these places were, I personally think that blacks were probably much better off segregated into their ghettos, than were whites living in ghettos of an equal standing.

Well, hey, at least blacks, in all of their ghetto-poverty, could rightfully point an accusing finger at the whites for being the ones who initially put them there.

Where, on the other hand, whites living in ghettos had absolutely no one to blame but themselves for their state of dire poverty and destitution. I mean, no one can ever say that it was blacks who forced whites into this ghetto-situation.

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