100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Champion Boxer Faces Racially Motivated Charge

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878. He worked as a dock worker but in 1901 he fought experienced boxer Joe Choynski in Galveston in an illegal match. Both men were jailed and Choynski taught Johnson the skills of boxing while they were in prison. Johnson developed his own style of boxing that was slow and deliberate. It was very effective but it was criticized in the press as being cowardly and devious. By 1902 Johnson had won at least 50 fights against both white and black opponents. Johnson won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in February 1903. He wished to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship but reigning champion James J Jeffries refused to face him. Johnson fought former champion Bob Fitzsimmons in July 1907 and knocked him out in two rounds.

Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title in December 1908 beating reigning world champion Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia in 14 rounds. For the next 2 years, Johnson faced several fighters each called “the Great White Hope”, a racial taunt at the African American champion. Finally in 1910 former undefeated heavyweight champion James J Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge Johnson. He had to lose 100 pounds to get to fighting weight. “The Fight Of The Century” took place on July 4, 1910 in front of 20,000 people, at a ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno, Nevada. Recently Johnson defended hit title against “Fireman” Jim Flynn in New Mexico.The fight was filmed and producers hoped to successfully distribute it just as the Jefferies fight had been. Congress passed the Sims act which outlawed the interstate transportation of fight films.


Johnson is a independent African-American who does not fit stereotypes or the roles white society thinks he should conform to. He openly socializes with white women and paid no deference to the color line. In January 1911, Johnson married Brooklyn socialite and divorcee Etta Terry Duryea. Etta suffered from severe depression and after just 8 months of marriage, committed suicide by shooting herself in the head in September 1912. Shortly afterwards Johnson began seeing Lucille Cameron, an 18 year old prostitute, an act that outraged the public.

On October 17 1912 Jack Johnson is arrested on a charge of abduction. Lucille Cameron denies the charge and will refuse to testify against Johnson.

Single Post Navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: