Written by Herman Raucher, it tells the story of an extremely bigoted 1960’s era White insurance salesman named Jeff Gerber (Godfrey Cambridge), who wakes up one morning to find that he has become Black. As Jeff tries to come to terms with this unexplained phenomenon that has befallen him, he soon becomes the victim himself when all of his friends and neighbors suddenly shun and harass him. This puts a strain on his marriage and loyal wife Althea (Estelle Parsons) , who begins to crack under the pressure. When all medical attempts to change his skin back to his former color fail, Jeff accepts that Kharma has caught up with him. Jeff tries to see the light of being a persecuted black man in this cruel and segregated world with the help of some of some new black friends, some of whom were people he, as a white man, taunted and harassed.
The premise for the film was inspired by Franz Kafka‘s The Metamorphosis, and by John Howard Griffin‘s autobiographical Black Like Me, which is based on the true story of a white reporter who, at the height of the civil-rights movement, temporarily darkened his skin so that he could experience the realities of a black man’s life in the segregated South.