Thursday, December 2, 2010

Uncommon Vision

Morgan Atkinson has produced a documentary on the remarkable life of John Howard Griffin.  Griffin figured significantly in Merton's life, and Merton in Griffin's.  This blog includes a collection of posts reflecting on Griffin's life, spirituality, and art (as if they could be viewed separately!). 

This is the description of the documentary from Atkinson's home page:

Uncommon Vision: The Life and Times of John Howard Griffin is Morgan Atkinson's documentary on the remarkable life of a son of the American South, who became a citizen of the world and stirred the conscience of a nation.
John Howard Griffin is best known as the white man who in 1959 disguised himself as a black man and then traveled anonymously through the heart of Dixie. From his experiences he wrote “Black Like Me”, a groundbreaking best seller that today stands as a testament to Griffin’s moral commitment and a document of one of the more extraordinary events of the Civil Rights era.
“Uncommon Vision” focuses on Griffin’s social activism but will also examine how a spiritual commitment led him from a segregated childhood in Fort Worth to fighting with the French Underground, sustained him during ten years of blindness incurred by war injuries and inspired him during a prolific creative life as a writer/photographer.
It’s an inspiring, entertaining and edifying story. Studs Terkel, one of the great chroniclers of 20th century American culture and a frequent interviewer of Griffin, summed him up thusly.
“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered …  He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.”
Studs Terkel

Here is a video.  I remember being fascinated with the book, Black Like Me, when I was a child.  I look forward to seeing this documentary:

Click HERE to listen to an America Magazine podcast about the documentary.


  1. Thank you for reminding me Beth. I grew up on the edge of the south and saw segregation, lived it at times. Our generation has taken down the signs and opened the doors but it has taken a new generation to start to become blind to the differnces in the shades of our skin. Thank you.

    Br. William

  2. I, too, grew up on the edge of the south, Brian, during times of legal segregation. I'm not sure that the new generation (or any of us) have made much progress with racism. Our prisons are filled with poor, young black men - many of them spending their entire lives behind bars. It is slavery gone underground. Sure, there are a few black people who are "successful", but the race as a a whole is still very oppressed in this country. The sin and wound of racism is very deep in our collective unconscious.

  3. Beth, I agree in part. I now live in the Southwest where racism was horrific - prejudice toward indians, "wet backs" etc. The town close to me is a mixture of shades of browns and whites and for the most part no one seems to really care. Many families of mixed race and heritage.

    I would also add that some of the browns are pretty racist which simply shows it is a universal human problem. Us vs. them

    Br. William

  4. Thank you for this post, Beth. It looks like a powerful documentary. I hope I will be able to see it somehow.

    I found something hilarious about Lax in one of Catherine Doherty's letters. Shall I email it to you? :)

    (my URL has changed).

  5. I watched the documentary, Gabrielle, and was somewhat disappointed. I think it could have been more insightful into JHG's personality and I felt the filming was a little choppy. Still, there is not much out there about John Howard Griffin, and I was glad to see it.

    I would love to know what you found about Lax in Catherine Doherty's letters. Please send!! (

  6. Will do! I just looked it up and it's not actually from a letter, but from a talk; will explain in my email.

  7. I was also deeply affected by reading "Black Like Me" as a youngster, and just discovered the connection between Griffin and Merton through the book "Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton," by Roger Lipsey. Googling Griffin led me to your blog, which I intend to read in more depth as time allows.



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