Jack Johnson: Unforgivable Blackness - Heavyweight Champion of the World Persecuted by the United States Government for dating White Women and being Black

(Black History Month) Jack Johnson: Unforgivable Blackness - Heavyweight Champion of the World Persecuted by the United States Government for dating White Women and being Black

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Jack Johnson was the first African American Heavyweight Champion of the World. His dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century.

Jack Johnson was born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas. He began boxing as a young teenager in the segregated South and soon made a considerable name for himself by defeating a succession of opponents with ease.

Reigning champion James J Jeffries spurned his persistent challenges, choosing to retire undefeated rather than fight a black person.

Johnson was not to be denied his ambition, however, and in 1908 he defeated the new champion Tommy Burns to become the first African-American to be crowned heavyweight champion of the world.

His success triggered a worldwide search for 'The Great White Hope' to re-establish the superiority of the white race, but it was Johnson's bold personal life that attracted the most hostility.

In 1912, federal authorities in Chicago went after him in court instead, bringing charges against him for violating the Mann Act, a federal law designed to help fight prostitution by making it a crime to transport a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes."

But virtually everyone knew — and the prosecuting attorney even admitted — that the real object was to punish Johnson for daring to engage in romantic relationships with white women.

In court, the federal prosecutors argued that Jackson committed a "crime against nature" for engaging in sexual intercourse with a white woman.

The fact that he married the woman only a few months after he was arrested made no difference. He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.

Johnson fled the country to avoid prison, but returned six years later to serve his time.

He returned to the U.S. in 1920, surrendered to authorities and served a year at Leavenworth.

He never again was given a chance to reclaim the title he had fought so hard to win. Today, his story is known mostly to avid sports fans.

In many ways, Johnson's adversaries succeeded in their mission to cut him down to size. They sought a conviction against Johnson to send a message to African Americans:

Don't hold your head too high.

Don't believe you're any better than you really are. Don't walk too proudly.

And never engage in intimate relations with whites.

On June 10, 1946, Johnson and a friend visited a segregated diner; when the diner refused to serve him, Johnson drove away angrily with his friend in the passenger seat.

The car collided with a telegraph pole on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina. While his friend survived the crash, Johnson suffered fatal injuries and died later that day at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was the nearest black hospital.

He was 68 years old.

Johnson was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago next to his first wife, Etta Duryea Johnson, who committed suicide in 1912. His grave was initially unmarked, but was later marked with a large tombstone which said only "Johnson".

A new marker was added after filmmaker Ken Burns released a film about Johnson's life in 2005. Johnson's new, smaller gravestone reads:

"Jack / John A. Johnson. 1878–1946. First black heavyweight champion of the world."

Johnson's signature is on the back of the stone.

April 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he was considering granting a full pardon to Johnson after speaking with a World Boxing Council committee, along with actor Sylvester Stallone. Trump pardoned Johnson on May 24, 2018, 105 years after his conviction,

Actor and professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's surname is an homage to Jack Johnson; his father, professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, was born with the surname "Bowles" and chose his ring name in honor of the boxer before making it his legal name.

His is the story of a man who refused to recognise racial differences and who forced America to reconsider its very definition of freedom.


Sources for Report

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (clips)

Jack Johnson (boxer)


THE RISE AND FALL OF JACK JOHNSON PBS (Entire Series at PBS for a Donation)

#BLM #BlackHistoryMonth #JackJohnson #Racism #HeavyWeight


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