I remember decades ago reading a book with the following vignette, set in the 60s. The white male narrator is driving through the countryside and picks up a hitchhiking young black man. The rider is extremely polite and says very little. The driver says something positive about race relations, hoping that the country is getting better, but this makes the rider uncomfortable. He soon says "you can let me out here, this is my stop," although earlier he said he had a destination much further down the road. The man is insistent, so the driver lets him out, and realizes two things: the country has further to go than he realized, and he erred in thinking he could begin speaking of such things to a strange black man. He realized that he was a "danger" to the latter, who had no reason to trust a white stranger howsoever reassuring his words were (they might have been a trap). So it was a lesson to the narrator which he carried with him.

I thought this might have been from Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley," but I just searched two google books versions and can't find it with any of the obvious keywords; he relates a more positive, but also educational, encounter with a black rider, but this one is more talkative so it isn't the anecdote I'm recalling.

  • I need to hunt down a copy or a text version to be sure, but I strongly suspect this is from Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, during one of the chapters where he was presenting as a white man in the South.
    – Mike
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 19:04
  • @Mike Internet Archive if you have an account, but it's the Black-presenting hitchhiker who is the narrator, and the white driver who chooses to stop in the middle of nowhere to let the rider out.
    – shoover
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 22:41
  • I don't think so; I've never read the book (might've seen the movie based on it), and the narration I read was definitely from the driver's POV, he only speculated on the mind of his passenger, but was definitely sad that the encounter was threatening and he couldn't help more in the way he thought he could.
    – scottef
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 0:22
  • I remember such a scene being part of "The Nickel Boys" by Colson Whitehead.
    – CinCout
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 6:24
  • It can't be The Nickel Boys because I read it much longer ago than 2019, when this was published.
    – scottef
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:49


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