The American Library Association designated Mansfield Public Library as a Literary Landmark for John Howard Griffin’s book Black Like Me.
Griffin (1920-1980), a white journalist who lived in Mansfield at the time he wrote his book, conducted a social experiment in 1959, where he darkened his skin before traveling through the southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama for seven weeks. He chronicled his experience in his memoir, which has never been out of print since it was published in 1961.
A dedication ceremony was held Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Mansfield Public Library in front of a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 350 people. A capacity crowd also saw the new documentary film, Uncommon Vision: the Life and Times of John Howard Griffin, at the Farr Best Theater downtown prior to the ceremony.
Special guests Mrs. Laura W. Bush, Griffin biographer and friend Robert Bonazzi, and Mansfield Mayor David Cook participated in the program along with City Librarian Steve Standefer and Friends President Paula Highfill. The plaque was unveiled by Mrs. Bush and Paula. There was a cake and punch reception following the dedication ceremony.
Mrs. Bush also penned a letter of congratulations to the library and Friends for the designation.
We are full of gratitude for many people and organizations that helped us celebrate this honor. Thank you to:
- Robert Bonazzi for participating in this program, and for all of the photos and materials for the display case. Thank you for the books that you donated and a special thank you from librarian Pat Young.
- Farr Best Theatre for showing the documentary Uncommon Vision: The Life and Times of John Howard Griffin.
- Morgan Atkinson for allowing us to show the documentary. If you would like to purchase a copy of the DVD, go to www.morganatkinson.com.
- Alternative Funeral Services for graciously underwriting the essay contest’s $500 prize.
- All the students who participated in the essay contest.
- The judges for reading and judging the essays.
- The volunteers, city staff and library staff who helped in many ways.
- The Griffin family for attending the program and supporting our desire to honor John Howard Griffin.
And a big Texas-sized thank you to former First Lady Mrs. Laura W. Bush for making this an event to remember!