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Old 06-04-2011, 03:40 PM  
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the "Galveston Giant"

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John Arthur ("Jack") Johnson (March 31, 1878 ? June 10, 1946), nicknamed the ?Galveston Giant?, was an American boxer. At the height of the Jim Crow era, Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908?1915). In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes, "for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth."[1]

Early life

Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas, the second child and first son of Henry and Tina "Tiny" Johnson, former slaves who worked at blue-collar jobs to raise six children and taught them how to read and write. Henry Johnson traced his ancestry back to the Coromantees who came from modern-day Ghana.[2] Johnson dropped out of school after just five or six years of education to get a job as a dock worker in Galveston.
[edit]Professional boxing career

Trained in the art of pugilism by the aging Joe Choynski, who also became his friend and sparring partner, Johnson's boxing style was very distinctive. He developed a more patient approach than was customary in that day: playing defensively, waiting for a mistake, and then capitalizing on it. Johnson always began a bout cautiously, slowly building up over the rounds into a more aggressive fighter. He often fought to punish his opponents rather than knock them out, endlessly avoiding their blows and striking with swift counters. He always gave the impression of having much more to offer and, if pushed, he could punch powerfully.
Johnson's style was very effective, but it was criticized in the press as being cowardly and devious. By contrast, World Heavyweight Champion "Gentleman" Jim Corbett had used many of the same techniques a decade earlier, and was praised by the press as "the cleverest man in boxing".[1]
By 1902, Johnson had won at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents. Johnson won his first title on February 3, 1903, beating "Denver" Ed Martin over 20 rounds for the World Colored Heavyweight Championship. His efforts to win the full title were thwarted, as world heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries refused to face him then. Black and white boxers could meet in other competitions, but the world heavyweight championship was off limits to them. However, Johnson did fight former champion Bob Fitzsimmons in July 1907, and knocked him out in two rounds.[1]
Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title on December 26, 1908, a full six years after Lightweight Champion Joe Gins became the first African American boxing champion. Johnson's victory over the reigning world champion, Canadian Tommy Burns, in Sydney, Australia, came after stalking Burns around the world for two years and taunting him in the press for a match[3]. The fight lasted fourteen rounds[4] before being stopped by the police in front of over 20,000 spectators. The title was awarded to Johnson on a referee's decision as a knockout.
After Johnson's victory over Burns, racial animosity among whites ran so deep that Jack London called out for a "Great White Hope" to take the title away from Johnson.[5] As title holder, Johnson thus had to face a series of fighters billed by boxing promoters as "great white hopes", often in exhibition matches. In 1909, he beat Frank Moran, Tony Ross, Al Kaufman, and the middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel. The match with Ketchel was keenly fought by both men until the 12th and last round, when Ketchel threw a right to Johnson's head, knocking him down. Slowly regaining his feet, Johnson threw a straight to Ketchel's jaw, knocking him out, along with some of his teeth, several of which supposedly were embedded in Johnson's glove. His fight with Philadelphia Jack O'Brien was a disappointing one for Johnson: though weighing 205 pounds (93 kg) to O'Brien's 161 pounds (73 kg), he could only achieve a six-round draw with the great middleweight.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:03 PM  
mohel
 
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On April 5, 1915, Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard, a working cowboy from Kansas who started boxing when he was twenty-seven years old. With a crowd of 25,000 at Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba, Johnson was knocked out in the 26th round of the scheduled 45 round fight. Johnson, although having won almost every round, began to tire after the 20th round, and was visibly hurt by heavy body punches from Willard in rounds preceding the 26th round knockout. Johnson is said by many to have spread rumors that he took a dive,[9] but Willard is widely regarded as having won the fight outright. Willard said, "If he was going to throw the fight, I wish he'd done it sooner. It was hotter than hell out there".
In a famous photo showing Johnson lying on the mat after being knocked down and during the ten counts, he can be seen shielding his eyes from the glare of the tropical sun with his glove. Less well known is a photo taken soon afterwards, showing Johnson's arms flat on the mat.

Johnson was an early example of the celebrity athlete in the modern era, appearing regularly in the press and later on radio and in motion pictures. He earned considerable sums endorsing various products, including patent medicines, and indulged several expensive hobbies such as automobile racing and tailored clothing, as well as purchasing jewelry and furs for his wives.[10] He even challenged champion racer Barney Oldfield to a match auto race at the Sheepshead Bay, New York one mile (1.6 km) dirt track. Oldfield, far more experienced, easily out-distanced Johnson, ending any thoughts the boxer might have had about becoming a professional driver.[11] Once, when he was pulled over for a $50 speeding ticket (a large sum at the time), he gave the officer a $100 bill; when the officer protested that he couldn't make change for that much, Johnson told him to keep the change, as he was going to make his return trip at the same speed.[1] Johnson was also interested in opera (his favorite being Il Trovatore) and in history ? he was an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, believing him to have risen from a similar origin to his own. In 1920, Johnson opened a night club in Harlem; he sold it three years later to a gangster, Owney Madden, who renamed it the Cotton Club.
Johnson constantly flouted conventions regarding the social and economic "place" of blacks in American society. As a black man, he broke a powerful taboo in consorting with white women, and would constantly and arrogantly verbally taunt men (both white and black) inside and outside the ring. Johnson was pompous about his affection for white women, and imperious about his physical prowess, both in and out of the ring. Asked the secret of his staying power by a reporter who had watched a succession of women parade into, and out of, the champion's hotel room, Johnson supposedly said "Eat jellied eels and think distant thoughts".[12]
Johnson was married three times. All of his wives were white, a fact that caused considerable controversy at the time. In January 1911, Johnson married Etta Terry Duryea. A Brooklyn socialite and former wife of businessman Charles Duryea, she met Johnson at a car race in 1909. Their romantic involvement was very turbulent. Beaten many times by Johnson and suffering from severe depression, she committed suicide in September 1912, shooting herself with a revolver.[13]
Less than three months later, on December 4, 1912, Johnson married Lucille Cameron. After Johnson married Cameron, two ministers in the South recommended that Johnson be lynched. Cameron divorced him in 1924 because of infidelity.
The next year, Johnson married Irene Pineau. When asked by a reporter at Johnson's funeral what she had loved about him, she replied, "I loved him because of his courage. He faced the world unafraid. There wasn't anybody or anything he feared."[13]
Johnson had no children.

Panorama_of_Willard_-_Johnson_fight,_Havana,_Cuba


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Prison sentence
On October 18, 1912, Johnson was arrested on the grounds that his relationship with Lucille Cameron violated the Mann Act against "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" due to her being a prostitute. Cameron, soon to become his second wife, refused to cooperate and the case fell apart. Less than a month later, Johnson was arrested again on similar charges. This time, the woman, another prostitute named Belle Schreiber, with whom he had been involved in 1909 and 1910, testified against him. In the courtroom of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, ironically the future Commissioner of Baseball where he perpetuated the baseball color line until his death, Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury in June 1913,[14] despite the fact that the incidents used to convict him took place prior to passage of the Mann Act.[1] He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Johnson skipped bail and left the country, joining Lucille in Montreal on June 25, before fleeing to France. For the next seven years, they lived in exile in Europe, South America and Mexico. Johnson returned to the U.S. on July 20, 1920. He surrendered to Federal agents at the Mexican border and was sent to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth to serve his sentence September 1920 as Inmate #15461.[15]
While incarcerated, Johnson found need for a tool that would help tighten loosened fastening devices, and modified a wrench for the task. He patented his improvements on April 18, 1922, as US Patent 1,413,121.[16][17] He was released on July 9, 1921.[1]
There have been recurring proposals to grant Johnson a posthumous presidential pardon. A bill requesting President George W. Bush to pardon Johnson in 2008, passed the House,[18] but failed to pass in the Senate.[19] In April 2009, Senator John McCain, along with Representative Peter King, filmmaker Ken Burns and Johnson's great-niece, Linda Haywood, requested a presidential pardon for Johnson from President Barack Obama.[20] On July 29, 2009, Congress passed a resolution calling on President Obama to issue a pardon.[21]
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:30 PM  
mohel
 
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the "Galveston Giant"

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Later life

Johnson continued fighting, but age was catching up with him. He fought professionally until 1938, losing 7 of his last 9 bouts, losing his final fight to Walter Price, by a 7th-round TKO.
On June 10, 1946, Johnson died in a car crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina, a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him.[22] He was taken to the closest black hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh. He was 68 years old at the time of his death. He was buried next to Etta Duryea Johnson at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.[23] His grave was initially unmarked, but a stone that bears only the name "Johnson" now stands above the plots of Jack, Etta, and Irene Pineau.[23]
[edit]Legacy

Johnson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, and is on the roster of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2005, the United States National Film Preservation Board deemed the film of the 1910 Johnson-Jeffries fight "historically significant" and put it in the National Film Registry.
Johnson's skill as a fighter and the money that it brought made it impossible for him to be ignored by the establishment. In the short term, the boxing world reacted against Johnson's legacy. But Johnson foreshadowed, in many ways, perhaps one of the most famous boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali. In fact, Ali often spoke of how he was influenced by Jack Johnson. Ali identified with Johnson because he felt America ostracized him in the same manner because of his opposition to the Vietnam War and affiliation with the Nation of Islam.[24]
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Jack Johnson on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[25]
[edit]Popular culture
Johnson's story is the basis of the play and subsequent 1970 movie The Great White Hope, starring James Earl Jones as Johnson (known as Jack Jefferson in the movie), and Jane Alexander as his love interest.
In 2005, filmmaker Ken Burns produced a 2-part documentary about Johnson's life, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, based on the 2004 nonfiction book of the same name by Geoffrey C. Ward.
Folksinger and blues musician Leadbelly references Johnson in a song about the Titanic: ?Jack Johnson wanna get on board, Captain said I ain't hauling no coal. Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well. When Jack Johnson heard that mighty shock, mighta seen the man do the Eagle rock. Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well? (The Eagle Rock was a popular dance at the time). In 1969, American folk singer Jamie Brockett reworked the Leadbelly song into a satirical talking blues called "The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic". It should be noted there is no convincing evidence that Johnson was in fact refused passage on the Titanic because of his race, as these songs allege.
Miles Davis's 1970 (see 1970 in music) album A Tribute to Jack Johnson was inspired by Johnson. The end of the record features the actor Brock Peters (as Johnson) saying:
? I'm Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I'm black. They never let me forget it. I'm black all right! I'll never let them forget it! ?
Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis both have done soundtracks for documentaries about Johnson. Several hip-hop activists have also reflected on Johnson's legacy, most notably in the album The New Danger, by Mos Def, in which songs like "Zimzallabim" and "Blue Black Jack" are devoted to the artist's pugilistic hero. Additionally, both Southern punk rock band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb and alternative country performer Tom Russell have songs dedicated to Johnson. Russell's piece is both a tribute and a biting indictment of the racism Johnson faced: ?here comes Jack Johnson, like he owns the town, there's a lot of white Americans like to see a man go down? like to see a black man drown.?
Johnson was referenced in the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and he is mentioned in the 1940 book Native Son by author Richard Wright. Furthermore, 41st street in Galveston is named Jack Johnson Blvd.
Wal-Mart created a controversy in 2006 when DVD shoppers were directed from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes to the "similar item" Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.[26]
Ray Emery of the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL sported a mask with a picture of Johnson on it as a tribute to his love for boxing.
In the trenches of World War One, Johnson's name was used by British troops to describe the impact of German 150 mm heavy artillery shells which had a black colour.[27] In his letters home to his wife, Rupert Edward Inglis (1863?1916), who was a former rugby international and now a Forces Chaplain, describes passing through the town of Albert:
We went through the place today (2 October 1915) where the Virgin Statue at the top of the Church was hit by a shell in January. The statue was knocked over, but has never fallen, I sent you a picture of it. It really is a wonderful sight. It is incomprehensible how it can have stayed there, but I think it is now lower than when the photograph was taken, and no doubt will come down with the next gale. The Church and village are wrecked, there?s a huge hole made by a Jack Johnson just outside the west door of the Church.[28]
In Joe R. Lansdale's short story The Big Blow, Johnson is featured fighting a white boxer brought in by Galveston, Texas's boxing fans to defeat the African American fighter during the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. The story won a Bram Stoker Award and was expanded into a novel.[29]
Johnson is the subject of the biographical comic book The Original Johnson, by writer/artist Trevor Von Eeden.[30]
In 2011, Jack Johnson was featured on EA Sports Fight Night Champion as downloadable content on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Johnson was part of the "Legends Pack" with Jack Dempsy, Floyd Patterson, Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano. [31]
Johnson is a major character in the novel The Killings of Stanley Ketchel (2005), by James Carlos Blake.
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:14 PM  
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Unforgivable Blackness

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Jack Johnson — the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century — enters the ring once again in January 2005 when PBS airs Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a provocative new PBS documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns. The two-part film airs on PBS Monday-Tuesday January 17-18, 2005, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Burns, whose past films on PBS (The Civil War, Baseball, JAZZ, etc.) are among the most-watched documentaries ever made, shows the gritty details of Johnson's life through archival footage, still photographs, and the commentary of boxing experts such as Stanley Crouch, Bert Sugar, the late George Plimpton, Jack Newfield, Randy Roberts, Gerald Early and James Earl Jones, who portrayed Johnson in the Broadway play and film based on Johnson's life, "The Great White Hope."

"Johnson in many ways is an embodiment of the African-American struggle to be truly free in this country — economically, socially and politically," said Burns. "He absolutely refused to play by the rules set by the white establishment, or even those of the black community. In that sense, he fought for freedom not just as a black man, but as an individual."

Johnson, who was born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas, began boxing as a young teenager in the Jim Crow-era South. Boxing was a relatively new sport in America, and was banned in many states. African-Americans were permitted to compete for most titles, but not for the title that whites considered their exclusive domain: Heavyweight Champion of the World. African-Americans were considered unworthy to compete for the title — not for lack of talent, but simply by virtue of not being white.

Despite this, Johnson was persistent in challenging James J. Jeffries — the heavyweight champion at the time, who was considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight in history — for a shot at the title. For 14 years, Johnson had made a name for himself as well as a considerable amount of money with his ability to beat black and white opponents with shocking ease. Jeffries, however, refused to fight a black boxer and instead decided to retire undefeated.

Then in 1908, after defeating most other white opponents, the new champion Tommy Burns agreed to fight Johnson in Australia for the unheard of sum of $30,000. In the 14th round, after beating Burns relentlessly, the fight was stopped and Johnson became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World.

In Unforgivable Blackness, Johnson biographer Randy Roberts observes, "The press reacted [to Johnson's victory] as if Armageddon was here. That this may be the moment when it all starts to fall apart for white society."

His victory spurred a search among whites for a "great white hope" who could beat Johnson and win back the title. They finally found him in Johnson's old nemesis, Jim Jeffries, who decided to return from retirement and give Johnson the fight he had always wanted. This fight was especially important to Johnson, because many whites had dismissed his claim to the title as invalid; Burns, it was argued, was never the true champion because he didn't win the title by beating Jeffries. No one had beaten Jeffries, and most thought he was certain to reclaim the title for whites.

The Johnson-Jeffries fight, dubbed the "Battle of the Century," took place on July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada. Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the 15th round. Johnson's victory sparked a wave of nationwide race riots across in which numerous African-Americans died. Newspaper editorials warned Johnson and the black community not to be too proud. Congress eventually passed an act banning the interstate transport of fight films for fear that the images of Johnson beating his white opponents would provoke further unrest.

Perhaps even more troubling for white America than Johnson's dominance over his white opponents in the boxing ring were his romantic entanglements with white women. One of his frequent traveling companions was Hattie McClay, a white prostitute. They were later joined by Belle Schreiber, also a white prostitute whom Johnson met in Chicago. "He wouldn't let anybody define him," says James Earl Jones in Unforgivable Blackness. "He was a self-defined man. And this issue of his being black was not that relevant to him. But the issue of his being free was very relevant."

Johnson eventually married a white woman, Etta Duryea. Their relationship was troubled; Johnson drank heavily and abused her; she was a victim of chronic depression. Duryea eventually committed suicide in 1912. Three months later, Johnson married Lucille Cameron, another white woman and a former prostitute. In 1910, Congress passed the Mann Act, which outlawed the transportation of women in interstate or foreign commerce "for the purpose of prostitution, debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose." While the law was intended to be used against commercialized vice, the U.S. government used it to make Jack Johnson pay for his success and his lifestyle.

In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act. His former lover, Belle Schreiber, testified against him. Even at the time it was widely thought to be a sham trial, with the prosecutor himself saying after the verdict, "This Negro, in the eyes of many, has been persecuted. Perhaps as an individual he was. But it was his misfortune to be the foremost example of the evil in permitting the intermarriage of whites and blacks."

Johnson fled the country and spent several years as a fugitive in Europe. In 1914 he lost his title to Jess Willard in Cuba.

In 1920, Johnson returned to the U.S., surrendered to authorities and served his time in prison. He was never again given a shot at the heavyweight title, and in 1946, after being angered by a racist incident at a diner, drove his car too fast around a turn in North Carolina and was killed.

"Johnson's story is more than the story of a tremendous athlete, or even one who broke a color line," said Ken Burns. "It is the story of a man who forced America to confront its definition of freedom, and that is an issue with which we continue to struggle."

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. Corporate funding provided by General Motors Corporation. Additional funding provided by PBS, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and Rosalind P. Walter.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:23 PM  
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Awesome photos and history! I love this sort of thing. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-04-2011, 10:48 PM  
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I want to find out more about this giant! Thanks!
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:43 AM  
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He was from the Southwest so there should be plenty out there about him. The word "uppity" was probably coined to describe him. His flashy race cars and his love of white women didn't get a warm reception. To make it worse he saw a Europe that didn't have a race issues.
Considering that Congress already moved to pardon him I think I know why Obama is hesitant. Johnson loved white women of any repute so a pardon would draw complaints from the God crowd. One lass in that group shot seems to have been 100 years ahead of Paris Hilton.
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:51 PM  
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He was from the Southwest so there should be plenty out there about him. The word "uppity" was probably coined to describe him. His flashy race cars and his love of white women didn't get a warm reception. To make it worse he saw a Europe that didn't have a race issues.
Considering that Congress already moved to pardon him I think I know why Obama is hesitant. Johnson loved white women of any repute so a pardon would draw complaints from the God crowd. One lass in that group shot seems to have been 100 years ahead of Paris Hilton.


I've read articles here and there on Jack, never new he was from Galveston though.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:18 AM  
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I've read articles here and there on Jack, never new he was from Galveston though.

I'd bet Jack isn't in any Texas school books.
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Old 06-07-2011, 03:56 PM  
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I'd bet Jack isn't in any Texas school books.
No he wasn't.
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