Summary of The Aftermath, April 1–August 17, 1960
April 1, Mansfield
Back at his home in Mansfield, Griffin is filmed for a French television program. News of his experiment has reached all over the world. Locally, however, no one has contact with Griffin. Griffin avoids going out, having heard from friends that he is being loudly discussed on the streets and shops of the town. Many people claim that his acts were un-Christian. The segregationists of the town, who gather in the local café, put up more racist signs.
Griffin wakes up to find out that townspeople have hung him in effigy in the center of town. A dummy, half black and half white, with Griffin’s name on it, is hanging from a wire on Main Street. When a reporter asks him about it, Griffin says he’s not interested, and that this surely doesn’t represent the feelings of the majority in the town. However, nobody in town calls Griffin to offer their support. Their silence seems to mean they all agree. The only person who expresses an opinion is the town grocer. He reassures Griffin’s father that he is still welcome in his shop, no matter what others may say.
Considering the hostile climate a threat, Griffin and his family prepare to leave for Dallas to stay with friends, the Turners. They meet with cold stares by people on the street. At a stoplight, a man tells Griffin that some people have been planning to castrate him. They pack their suitcases and leave town.
April 7, Dallas
Griffin is happy to see that the newspaper reports fairly and accurately about the effigy hanging. At the same time, segregationists burn a cross in protest at a black school near Griffin’s home. He is very happy to have his family out of Mansfield and safely away in Dallas.
The Griffins return to Mansfield, deciding not to hide away any longer. Mail pours in from all over the country, almost all of it favorable and moving. At home, townspeople still resent the way Griffin “stirred things up.” Griffin says that he, too, wants peace—but true peace can only be achieved after justice is assured for everyone.
June 19, Father’s Day
Griffin has received six thousand letters, only nine of them abusive. Many favorable letters come from white Southerners. Curtis Bok, a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, sends a copy of a controversial speech he delivered at Radcliffe College. In the speech, Bok argues that it is time to end racial segregation and that white Southerners’ pleas for more “time to work things out” are only excuses.
Every time he leaves his house, Griffin meets either stares of disapproval or stony silence.
Griffin’s parents, tired of the hostility, sell their home and move to Mexico. Griffin hesitates to leave, not wanting the bullies to chase him out. They keep threatening to attack Griffin, and he waits to see what they will do.
The bullies’ threats prove empty; nobody comes for Griffin. Griffin hires a young black man to help him clean out the house and property. The black youth, knowing Griffin’s story, opens up to him and asks why whites hate blacks so much.
Griffin is saddened to realize that, like many African-Americans, this young man has the misperception that all whites are racist. He cannot see that there are many white people who support racial equality. This common misperception, Griffin notes, only increases black hatred toward whites. Griffin warns that hate is not the answer. Black leaders should not preach on the basis of revenge; nor should they preach black superiority to whites. Instead, leaders on both sides must look to bridge the gap with understanding and compassion. If they fail to do so, they will only create a climate of divisions—ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice—and all the good, right-thinking, non-racist people will be dragged down with them.
Analysis of The Aftermath, April 1–August 17, 1960
The final part of the journal tells of the repercussions Griffin suffered as a result of his experiment. Again, it may be difficult for contemporary readers to realize the violent hostility Griffin faced for simply trying to expose the truth. He would have had every reason to believe that his life was in danger. White segregationists in the South felt Griffin and others like him were a threat to their way of life. As Justice Curtis Bok’s speech suggests, the segregationists were pleading for more time because they did not want to change. However, Griffin notes, there are likely many whites who support him and are afraid to say so publicly. This is shown by the overwhelming number of positive letters he receives.
In his final entry, Griffin offers a last thought about how the race problem will be solved. He warns that hate and revenge is not the answer and that leaders who preach black superiority (likely a reference to Malcolm X and other militant nationalists) are only fighting ignorance with ignorance, injustice with injustice. He believes that the only way to bridge the gap is through understanding and compassion.