October 19, 2010
Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes
Born in Galveston on March 31,1878 to Henry and Tiny Johnson was the worlds first African American heavy weight champion of the world, Arthur (Jack) Johnson.
His Father Henry and Mother Tiny were former slaves who when were free, made a living as a janitor and a laundress in Galveston Texas. There they started a family and had six children. Arthur was there third, and though they could not, they made sure all there children could both read and write. It was said that Jack Johnson was always a dreamer, a little more over the rest for at the age of twelve he stowed away in a cotton steamer to New York City to meet his hero, Steve Brodie, (the first person to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive) and when he reached New York he became friends with Brodie, shook his hand and went back to Galveston, or so he liked to say.
There are many different stories to how Johnson got his start in boxing, One was that there was a school bully who constantly picked at him and when he would come home upset and beat his mother would tell him if he came home beat up again she was going to give him a real beating. After that it is said that he never lost a fight. Another story is that he started by doing Battle Royals where a group of white men would get a couple of young black boys together blind fold them and have them fight and whom ever was last one standing would get a hand full of change, Johnson was always the last one standing. Johnson was always the rebel type and was now fighting professionally at private clubs in the Galveston area with other African American boxers. They weren’t making any real money but the houses were paid for and in 1898 he found a light skinned black girl named Mary Austin who he claimed to be married to but it ended in 1901. She would be the first of many Mrs. Johnson’s.
In 1991 there became a law into which boxing was prohibited and there would be a fine between 500 to 1000 dollars so because of this there are not many records of Johnson’s fights. In 1901 I would say was a turning point for Johnson in boxing for on Feb 25 he was matched to fight one of the greatest fighters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Joe Choynski. Choynski was Jewish and he could no longer defeat champions but he could fight new comers so himself and Johnson fought and Johnson was knocked out, after the refs count to 10 the Texas rangers came and arrested both Johnson and Choynski. They spent 23 days together in jail and in those days Choynski taught Johnson to fight properly and when he came out he went every where from Memphis to Chicago to California in search of opponents.
In 1902 he won 27 titles fighting both white and black upcoming heavy weights, Johnson had become a sport, not only with his career but with his dress as well, it is said that he was always dressed well and had no fewer then 21 tailor made suits. I am sure this upset the white men for they were usually the only ones dressed this way but Johnson always took things to the extreme and now he was dating a prostitute named Clara Kerr. He met Clara Kerr in January of 1902 and it’s said that she was very beautiful. Johnson liked the company of woman and if could afford it he often had two or three. Clara and Johnson lived together for a while and she took on the name Mrs. Johnson. It wasn’t long before Clara left Johnson for a friend of his named Bryon and this was the last black woman he ever had relations with. Johnson was said to really love Clara and became depressed but with his career starting to boom he continued with his boxing and finally got his real big chance in Los Angeles in May of 1902 where he got the opportunity to fight Jack Jefferies the younger brother of the heavy weight champion, Jim Jefferies, and Johnson won the fight by a knockout, he was 24 yrs old. After the fight it was reported that Jim...