Black Ancestors : Jack Johnson - 1st Black Heavyweight Champion

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Destee, May 15, 2006.

  1. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    Our Beloved Ancestor ... Jack Johnson

    http://www.famoustexans.com/jackjohnson.htm

    Arthur John (Jack) Johnson (1878 -1946) was the first black, and first Texan, to win the heavyweight boxing championship of the world.

    Born in Galveston on March 31, 1878, he was the second of six children of Henry and Tiny Johnson. Henry was a former slave and his family was poor. After leaving school in the fifth grade, Johnson worked odd jobs around South Texas. He started boxing as a sparring partner and fought in the "battles royal," matches in which young blacks entertained white spectators who threw money to the winner.

    Johnson turned professional in 1897 following a period with private clubs in Galveston. His family's home was destroyed by the great hurricane of 1900. A year later he was arrested and jailed because boxing was a criminal profession in Texas. He soon left Galveston for good.

    Johnson first became the heavyweight champion of Negro boxing. Jim Jeffries, the white champ at the time, refused to fight Johnson because he was black. Then, in 1908, Johnson knocked out Tommy Burns in Australia to become world champion, although he was not officially given the title until 1910 when he finally fought and beat Jeffries in Las Vegas. Jeffries had come out of retirement to become the first of many so-called "great white hopes."

    Race rioting was sparked after the Johnson-Jeffries fight. The Texas Legislature banned films of his victories over whites for fear of more riots. In 1913, Johnson fled because of trumped up charges of violating the Mann Act's stipulations against transporting white women across state lines for prostitution.

    During his exile from the U.S., Johnson lost his championship to a white man, Jess Willard, in Cuba in 1915. He returned to the U.S. on July 20, 1920 and was arrested. Sentenced to Leavenworth in Kansas, Johnson was appointed athletic director of the prison. Upon his release, he returned to boxing, but only participated in exhibition fights after 1928.

    Although married three times to white women, Johnson never had children. He died in a car crash June 10, 1946, near Raleigh, North Carolina.

    Bibliography: Wendy Brabner, Ed., Texas Monthly Texas Characters Datebook 1985 (Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1984). Ron Tyler, ed., The New Handbook of Texas, Vol. 3 (Austin, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 1996) pp. 955-56.

    http://www.famoustexans.com/jackjohnson.htm

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  2. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, whose reign lasted from 1908 to 1915, was also the first African American pop culture icon. He was photographed more than any other black man of his day and, indeed, more than most white men. He was written about more as well. Black people during the early 20th century were hardly the subject of news in the white press unless they were the perpetrators of crime or had been lynched (usually for a crime, real or imaginary). Johnson was different—not only was he written about in black newspapers but he was, during his heyday, not infrequently the subject of front pages of white papers. As his career developed, he was subject of scrutiny from the white press, in part because he was accused and convicted of a crime, but also because he was champion athlete in a sport with a strong national following. Not even the most famous race leaders of the day, Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and W. E. B. Du Bois, founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and editor of that organization's magazine, The Crisis, could claim anywhere near the attention Johnson received. Not even the most famous black entertainers and artists of the day—musical stage comics George Walker and Bert Walker, or bandleader James Reese Europe, or ragtime composer Scott Joplin, or fiction writer Charles W. Chesnutt, or painter Henry O. Tanner—received Johnson's attention. In fact, it would be safe to say that while Johnson was heavyweight champion, he was covered more in the press than all other notable black men combined.

    Blacks had an early presence in the sport. Ex-slaves Bill Richmond and Tom Molyneaux were both high-caliber boxers in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At this time, boxers fought without gloves, rounds were of indeterminate length, ending when a fighter was knocked down. A fighter was then given 30 seconds to recover and return to "scratch," a mark in the center of the ring where the two fighters met to resume the contest. There were few punches thrown in these matches because the bare hand, which can be easily broken, is not well-equipped as a fist to be a durable weapon. The bouts mostly consisted of wrestling and pummeling.

    What most bothered whites about Johnson was that he openly had affairs with white women—and even married them—at a time when miscegenation of this sort was not only illegal but was positively dangerous. Johnson did not seem to care what whites thought of him, and this bothered most whites a great deal. He was not humble or diffident with whites. He gloated about his victories and often taunted his opponents in the ring. (This behavior was not unique to him as a champion boxer. Many boxers, notably John L. Sullivan, acted this way. It was unique for a black public figure.) He also did not care what blacks thought of him, as some were critical of his sex life. His preference for white women seemed an embarrassment and something that would bring the wrath of whites down on the heads of every black person. Jeffries was coaxed out of retirement to fight Johnson, some arguing that since Jeffries never lost his title in the ring, he was, in essence, the real champion. That fight took place in Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910. It was the most talked-about, most publicized sporting event in American history. It was seen by nearly the whole country as a symbolic race war. It was also richest sporting event in American history: the two fighters split unevenly—the winner getting 60 percent—a sum of $101,000, a staggering prize for the time. Johnson once again won easily. Jeffries could not overcome a five-year layoff. Moreover, he probably lacked the skills, as he himself admitted after the fight, to have ever beaten Johnson. Since Johnson could not be defeated in the ring, the battle moved to defeating Johnson in the area where he most offended and where he was most vulnerable—his sex life.

    On September 14, 1912, Johnson's first white wife, Etta Duryea, blew her brains out in the upper floor of his Chicago nightclub (nightclub ownership being another sign of Johnson's immorality). The government was already trying to put together a case against him under the Mann Act with a woman named Lucille Cameron, a white prostitute who had consorted with Johnson. On December 4, 1912, less than three months after his first wife died, Johnson married Cameron. The white public was outraged beyond words. In part, Johnson did this to prevent being prosecuted by the government. Cameron couldn't testify against her husband. (He probably really loved her as well. The fact that she was white and that he had clearly been having an affair with her while his first wife was alive made it seem as Johnson was simply thumbing his nose at the moral and racial conventions of his society. With public sentiment so strongly against Johnson, the government was encouraged to continue its hunt for a witness against him for a Mann Act violation. They found one in Belle Schreiber, a white prostitute who had been Johnson's girlfriend on and off for several years. The case was successfully prosecuted and Johnson was found guilty in 1913 of violating a decidedly bad law. Despite being found guilty of fairly minor offense, he was given the maximum penalty of a year and a day in prison. Johnson jumped bail and fled to Europe. He was to live abroad until 1920, when he returned to serve his sentence.

    While he was abroad, Johnson continued to fight. He had to. He needed the money. Unfortunately for him, he was becoming less and less of an attraction and the fact that he had the title belt did not mean very much. The belt had no value because he was a fugitive, and was unable to fight in the biggest market for fights—the United States. In addition, with the start of war in Europe, he had become superfluous. Who cared about an out-of-shape, aging black American fighter who was hanging out in Europe? Eventually, he lost the title in Havana, Cuba in April 1915 to a big, lumbering Kansan named Jess Willard, who knocked out Johnson in the 26th round of their fight. Johnson claimed that the fight was fixed. Johnson probably lost cleanly: he was not in good fighting condition when he fought Willard, who was four years younger. Why would Johnson purposely want to lose the title? It was the only calling card to public notice of any sort that he had left. But whites finally got what they wanted: the return of the title to the white race. No black would fight for the heavyweight title for another 22 years, until Joe Louis did so, winning it in 1937.

    After he served his time, Johnson did what many famous ex-athletes do: he tried to live off his name. He fought in exhibitions, told his life story in dime museums, appeared in a few movies in bit roles, and exchanged predictions about upcoming title bouts for meals from reporters. He took out a patent for a wrench in 1922 that apparently never caught on. (Taking out a patent is not an indication that one's invention is a success in the market.) He continued to marry white women, but since he was no longer heavyweight champion, no one cared. He occasionally performed as a musician. There was an aspect of the shabby about his final years, but Johnson was a man of dignity and even of cultural bearing. He was an intelligent man—always a shrewd operator, looking for an angle. And he continued to drive fast, as he had when he was champion. He died in an automobile accident in 1946.

    http://www.pbs.org/unforgivableblackness/rebel/
     
  3. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    He also had gold teeth.....gold teeth....white women....this "brotha" was before his time!
     
  4. I-khan

    I-khan Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    lol,so true. He seemed to have more sense than some of these guys today (ie Mike tyson) but I guess it was only to fit his time.
     
  5. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    Our Beloved Ancestor ... Jack Johnson ... Tribute to The First Black Heavyweight Champion!



    :heart:

    Destee
     
  6. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Pardon sought for champ Jack Johnson
    Published: Feb. 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM


    NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Two politicians say they'll seek a presidential pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, convicted in 1913 on morals charges.

    President Barack Obama says he'll only consider pardons for the living, but a congressman and a senator -- both former amateur boxers -- say they'll push for an erasure of Johnson's conviction for dating and marrying white women, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

    Johnson was married three times; all of his wives were white.

    "They can do it if they want to," Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y, said.

    King and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who boxed in the Navy, said they'll introduce a resolution to pardon Johnson similar to one that passed both houses last year.



    Read more: http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/2011...ack-Johnson/UPI-26871298398623/#ixzz1EjA08Xki
     
  7. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    "" convicted in 1913 on morals charges ""

    this convicted stuff, seems to happen to the best of our people

    Thanks for Sharing Sister.

    :heart:

    Destee
     
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