For a book that is a must read in class, Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes is a book that really is a must read. I remember hearing the term about giving someone a Jack Johnson, but I never knew where the term came from. For example, they use this saying in Anchorman and now that I know who the saying is about, I find it to be even funnier. Anyway, if you are someone who likes sports or history of sports, then you should read Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes because it gives a description as to how a young African American came to rise to the top at a time where this was unheard of. This is almost like an underdog story, but it turned out that Jack Johnson was the best regardless of this skin color.
Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878. He was one of seven children born to former slaves. As Johnson grew up in Texas, he soon came to realize that he really did not have much possibility to become famous like he wanted to. Johnson used to be a man that would work dead end jobs such as sweeping floors to loading bales of cotton. Johnson also used to say that he would fight and beat up the neighborhood bully, but Johnson would also fight in battle royals. Battle royals were considered very humiliating because there were six to ten men fighting each other, while blindfolded. The last man standing was then considered the winner. These battle royals were so embarrassing because these battle royals were done in the presence of drunken white men, and these white men would throw coins at the fighters in order to egg the fight on.
Eventually, Johnson ended up becoming a local boxer and he would fight against other black fighters. Johnson would make anywhere from $5 a night all the way up to $15 a night for fighting. Johnson was soon starting to gain popularity in the ranks of black fighters. At this same time, a veteran white fighter came to town. This man’s name was Joe Choynski. Choynski was in Galveston and was teaching boxing lessons. Choynski actually agreed to teach Johnson, but only after the two boxed against each other. Choynski actually knocked out Johnson in the third round of their boxing match. Thanks to the help of Choynski, Johnson developed a sound boxing style and started to travel to major cities in order to get boxing matches. While Johnson was traveling around, Jim Corbett had become the new “white champion”. Corbett was considered to be the cleverest man in boxing, but had a primarily defensive and laid back style.
This then leads to the year 1902. In 1902, Johnson was making up to a grand a night for boxing. Then in May of 1902, Johnson got a fight against Jack Jeffries. Jack was the younger brother of Jim Jeffries who was the champion at that time. During the fight with younger Jack Jeffries, Johnson knocked him out in the fifth round. Johnson then demanded a chance for the heavyweight championship, but Jim Jeffries refused to fight black fighters. This was because he feared losing to a black man, and did not want a black champion. A year later in 1903, Johnson became the unofficial “black champion” after defeating Denver Ed Martin. With this title, Johnson had become even more popular and started to live a lifestyle like some people still live in 2014. This is because Johnson would get tailored suits and even gold caps for on his teeth.
Respectfully, Jack Johnson did not agree with racism or racial separatism. Johnson chose to avoid racism by acting and treating people of other races as though racism did not exist. Personally, I find this to be remarkable and very uplifting because this was a very hard time to be acting in such a way. Meanwhile, still in 1903, Johnson was still gaining popularity, and the newspapers were calling out Jim Jeffries to fight against Johnson. Jeffries still refused to fight against Johnson and Jeffries ended up retiring in 1905. The title then became Tommy Burns. Since Tommy Burns became the new champion,...
Bibliography: Roberts, R. (1985). Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes. New York: The Free Press.
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