Griffin, John Howard, 1920-1980

Biography: [accessed 31 Oct. 2012]: "John Howard Griffin, born June 16, 1920, in Dallas, Texas, was a writer, journalist, humanitiarian, and social critic. Griffin was educated at the Institute de Tours, the University of Poitiers, and the Conservatory of Fontainbleau, all in France. He ultimately received a certificate in piano and composition. Griffin also spent time at the Abbey of Solesmes contemplating a religious vocation. His first work, The Devil Rides Outside, is an autobiographical account of his time there and personal struggles during this period of his life. With the advent of World War II, Griffin did military service from 1942-45. While in the military, he was hit on the head and suffered a concussion, which later caused him to be struck blind while walking down a street one day in France. With this sudden disability, Griffin was forced to return to the United States. He moved in with his parents in Midland, Texas, and stayed with them until his marriage in 1952. Even after marrying and moving to his own home, Griffin still used his parents' home as a base for his writing. Griffin miraculously recovered his sight in 1957 and wrote about this experience in Scattered Shadows. Griffin wrote a great number of books, articles, and reviews, the most famous and controversial of which was Black Like Me. In this book he examined the attitudes of whites toward African-Americans in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. In order to obtain firsthand experience, Griffin dyed his skin and lived among other African-Americans for some weeks in the fall of 1959. Griffin was also an accomplished photographer and journalist, and wrote syndicated columns for the International News Service and King Features, as well as a short series on his recovery from blindness for the Dallas Times-Herald. A humanitarian, Griffin received many awards in his lifetime including the Pope John XIII Pacen in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 1964, and the National Council of Negro Women Award in 1960. During the 1960s, Griffin also worked in communities throughout the South, trying to open a dialogue between the African-American and white communities. Griffin was often ill in his later adult life and died of diabetes on September 9, 1980."

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