Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson tells the story of the first African-American boxer to win the most coveted title in all of sports and his struggle, in and out of the ring, to live his life as a free man. Part One follows Jack Johnson's remarkable journey from his humble beginnings in Galveston, Texas, as the son of former slaves, to his entry into the brutal world of professional boxing, where, in turn-of-the-century Jim Crow America, the heavyweight champion was an exclusively "white title." Johnson lived his life out loud, wearing fancy clothes, driving fast cars and openly flaunting the conventions of the time by dating and then marrying white women.
Despite the odds, Johnson was able to batter his way up through the professional ranks, and in 1908 he became the first African-American to earn the title Heavyweight Champion of the World. Johnson's victory set in motion a worldwide search for a "white hope" to restore the title to the white race. On July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada, ex-champion Jim Jeffries, the new "Great White Hope," came out of retirement to challenge Jack Johnson. Johnson easily won the contest, billed as the Battle of the Century, despite a hostile crowd and a steady stream of racial epithets hurled from Jeffries' corner. Johnson's victory provoked race riots all around the country, but his troubles were only just beginning.
The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson Episode 1