Black Champion

Art by Jaron Brown

Welcome all to The Bizarre Lab, this article is inspired by a great Human Being that fearlessly gained freedom by choosing to do what makes him happy no matter how scared he got or what the world believed. A brave man that saw no obstacles only opportunities, life had an effect on him, but he had a bigger effect on life. The Man I speak of is one amongst the World’s greatest heavy weights in and outside the ring. (Boxing ring is a square so why do we call it ring? Bizarre) In the twentieth century, slavery ended however the odds against a man seem immeasurable, but not if you were Jack Johnson. He was born John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, in Galveston Texas, March 31, 1878, to former slaves, Henry and Tina Johnson. The two had one plan that was to educate all six of their children making sure they learned math, reading and writing. Jack left school after six years and started working at the docks, years later he met Joe Choynski, and they became friends as well as sparring partners and started his boxing career. Through his evasive movements and dead accurate punches he often made his fights look very one sided. This of course brought him much attention, at the height of the Jim Crow era Jack was like a modern day sports icon. In 1908 Jack defeated Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia making himself the first Black Heavy Weight Champion of the World. He made front page on white newspapers which was astounding at the time, Blacks were only put in the paper for crimes, hangings, and for being suspected of a crime. Whites rallied behind Jim Jeffries the former heavy weight champion to come out of retirement, and in 1910 he did, it became one of the most note worthy moments in history.   “The Fight of the Century” they called it, and Jim Jeffries the great white hope was deployed. It was a monumental fight, one that proved that whites weren’t the most dominate race on earth as they tried to make everyone believe. By beating the champion amongst all those white folks that gathered in Reno, Nevada that hot dessert day Johnson displayed not only his skills as a boxer but his courage in the face of certain death. Days after ‘The Fight of the Century’ was over, tempers flared and riots broke out all over the country. Jack Johnson had giving Blacks something to think about as well as celebrate. At a time when the world made blacks believe they were inferior, Jack behaved like he was inferior to no one. From what I read about Jack and what I watched on the PBS documentary, his fearless personality gave him a great confidence, allowing him to live as a free man till he died in 1946 in a car crash. There are a lot more interesting stories of Jack Johnson, for instance being turned away from the titanic (Blues singer LeadBelly wrote a song about that) and his life full of white women and racing cars, but an amateur writer like me can only do so little justice in telling his story. So I leave you with this reference in hopes that you’ll hold an interest in Jack Johnson and do more research on him or checkout the PBS documentary “Unforgiveable Blackness” by Ken Burns following the life of Jack Johnson.


Jaron Brown

For more on Jack Johnson checkout these links


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