Soul Sister

Halsell was inspired by John Howard Griffin and his 1961 book, Black Like Me, in which he darkened his skin to pass as black. Griffin, a Fort Worth Native, befriended Halsell when she embarked on her own racial experiment. Click here to read correspondence between Halsell and Griffin from Halsell’s personal papers.

Black Like Me


White to Black

Interested in what her life would be like if she were a black woman in the late 1960s, Halsell took pills that were used to alleviate pigmentation problems, supplemented by extensive tanning sessions, to cross the color barrier. Further transformed by a wig and dark contact lenses, she moved in 1968 first to Harlem and then to the Deep South, where at the height of the civil rights movement she took a job as a domestic worker. She wrote about this in her 1969 book, Soul Sister, in which she described the anonymity and degradation of being a black domestic in a world of white employers, one of whom tried to rape her.

I find it somewhat ironical,” Halsell observed, “that friends of mine, having read the book, congratulate me on how brave I was.  There was nothing that courageous about what I did.  Blacks endure that all their lives.  And nobody goes around congratulating the black woman.”


Reader letters and sample research notes for Soul Sister.

Soul Sister doc1Soul Sister doc 2Soul Sister notes

Click here for more Soul Sister documents from the Halsell collection, including correspondence with doctors about Halsell’s skin-darkening medicine.