Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner: Boxing in the Shadow of the Global Color Line

Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner: Boxing in the Shadow of the Global Color Line

Theresa Runstedtler

Language: English

Pages: 376

ISBN: 0520280113

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In his day, Jack Johnson—born in Texas, the son of former slaves—was the most famous black man on the planet. As the first African American World Heavyweight Champion (1908–1915), he publicly challenged white supremacy at home and abroad, enjoying the same audacious lifestyle of conspicuous consumption, masculine bravado, and interracial love wherever he traveled. Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner provides the first in-depth exploration of Johnson’s battles against the color line in places as far-flung as Sydney, London, Cape Town, Paris, Havana, and Mexico City. In relating this dramatic story, Theresa Runstedtler constructs a global history of race, gender, and empire in the early twentieth century.

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popular culture and black transnationalism. Satadru Sen helped me find Indian articles on Johnson, while Paul Kramer pointed me toward relevant Philippine newspapers. Andrew Offenburger not only offered keen advice about the history of race in South Africa, but he also volunteered to do microfilm searches in the bowels of Sterling Library. Johnson’s most recent biographer, Geoffrey Ward, shared helpful leads over the course of this project. My UB colleagues in American studies, Global Gender

for their longstanding grievances. Every postfight report described the white spectators’ quiet dejection. “Johnson waved his hands to the crowd that did not cheer him,”   60  |  Embodying Empire one Australian journalist recounted. “A few straggling voices were raised but they were mere flecks of sound in an ocean of silence.” 127 It took just twelve minutes for the stands to empty. Outside the stadium the “big crowd shook its head sadly, spat into the roadway, and silently dispersed. It

neighborhood.1 By 8 November President Jacques Chirac had declared a state of emergency, invoking curfews to help restore order. With copycat violence breaking out in Brussels and Berlin, some European officials even worried that the racial unrest would spread to other countries on the continent. When the smoke cleared, France was forced to reckon with the origins of this violent rage. While the right-wing minister of the interior (now president) Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the rioters as “scum,”

country made plans or issued orders to prevent the exhibition of the incendiary film. Actions against the Jeffries-Johnson moving picture arose in Washington, D.C., Alabama (Birmingham, Mobile), Arkansas (Little Rock), Georgia (Savannah, Atlanta), Kentucky (Louisville, Newport), Louisiana (New Orleans), Maryland (Baltimore), South Carolina (Charleston), Texas (Forth Worth), Virginia (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond), California (Fresno), Illinois (Macomb), Michigan (Saginaw, Detroit), Missouri (St.

make their way across the Atlantic. An Indianapolis native and famed blackface comedian, Billy McClain became the booking agent for several African American boxers and performers in Europe, including McVea. McClain had left the United States in 1904, and, like many of his African American clients, he found his niche in the realm of entertainment. Known for being a bit of a braggart, he often sent back glowing descriptions of his overseas travels, including his enjoyment of high-powered

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