Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black History Spotlight: Jack Johnson

Peace Family,

As the first of what will be many Black History Spotlights here on HoneyCee.blogspot.com, I want to celebrate the life of the first African-American Heavy Weight Champion of the World Jack Johnson! I first discovered this incredibly talented and intelligent man in 2005 while reading a Black history poster at my campus job. I always wanted to take a further look into the life of this unforgettable man but as a busy undergrad that never happened. Imagine my enthusiasm when while scanning Netflix for a movie to watch during the two hour long process it takes to twist my hair, I saw a documentary for Jack Johnson pop up in the instant play! The documentary is entitled "Unforgivable Blackness." I must admit, I kind of expected the documentary to be solely about the trials of a Black man's quest to win the World Championship but it is not. What it really is, is a depiction of the life a man who rose from poverty to wealth, read and wrote voluminously, and dated white women exclusively during a time when many Blacks could not read, write, and were lynched for looking at a white woman. This was decades before the death of Emmett Till. During the 214 minute documentary, I learned that Jack Johnson's fighting was as much about strategy and technique as it was about strength and endurance. It was also about determination as he had to practically stalk the then heavy weight champion of the world James J. Jeffries and taunt him for a chance at the title which Jeffries vowed would never belong to a Black man. Jack Johnson defeated every opponent black or white in the U.S. or abroad with the exception of Jeffries. Jack Johnson's only deterrent was his color. But he did not let that hold him back, eventually he did get a chance at the title and won on December 26, 1908 by knocking out the then heavy weight champion of the world Tommy Burns who replaced Jeffries when he retired. Jack Johnson held the title for years while whites desperately sought the next "great white hope." Racial tensions reached a head in 1910 when James Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Jack Johnson and lost. There were race riots and both blacks and whites were killed. After years of exile from the U.S. due to laws that were passed prohibiting the intermingling of Black men and white women, Jack Johnson agreed to serve prison time for a court case where he was found guilty. Upon his release from prison, Jack Johnson was allowed to move back to the U.S. where he lived an extremely happy life training other boxers, occasionally fighting, and even opening what would one day become the infamous Cotton Club. I am so proud to call him one of my ancestors. His knowledge base and intellect was astounding, his skill impeccable, and his personality in a category of its own. Enjoy the short video below of this amazing man and please share this post with your family and friends. If you find the time to check out the full documentary entitled "Unforgivable Blackness" please do so. Until next time, I wish you all peace, light, and a happy Black History Month:)


1 comment:

  1. Informative post. I'm going to look for that documentary. Thanks.