Hmmm, early 20th century, a Black man semingly treated with respect,
I'll go with Jack Johnson,
the first Black heavyweight boxing champ and possibly the first
Black man in America to openly date white women..
Johnson finally won the world heavyweight title
on December 26, 1908, when he fought the Canadian world champion
Tommy Burns in Sydney, after stalking Burns around
the world for two years and taunting him in the press for a match.
The fight lasted fourteen rounds before being
stopped by the police in front of over 20,000 spectators. The title was
awarded to Johnson on a referee's decision as
a T.K.O, but he had clearly beaten the champion.
After Johnson's victory over Burns, racial animosity
among whites ran so deep that Jack London called out for
a "Great White Hope" to take the title away from
In 1910, former undefeated heavyweight champion
James J. Jeffries came out of retirement and said, "I feel obligated to
the sporting public at least to make an effort
to reclaim the heavyweight championship for the white race. . . . I should
into the ring again and demonstrate that a white
man is king of them all." Jeffries had not fought in six years and had
lose weight to get back to his championship fighting
The fight took place on July 4, 1910 in front
of 20,000 people, at a ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno,
Johnson proved stronger and more nimble than
Jeffries. In the 15th round, after Jeffries had been knocked down twice
first time in his career, his people called it
quits to prevent Johnson from knocking him out.
The "Fight of the Century" earned Johnson $65,000
and silenced the critics, who had belittled Johnson's previous victory
over Tommy Burns as "empty," claiming that Burns
was a false champion since Jeffries had retired undefeated.
Riots and aftermath
The outcome of the fight triggered race riots
that evening, from Texas and Colorado to New York and Washington, D.C.
Johnson's victory over Jeffries had dashed white
dreams of finding a "great white hope" to defeat him. Many whites felt
humiliated by the defeat of Jeffries.[clarification
Blacks, on the other hand, were jubilant, and
celebrated Johnson's great victory as a victory for racial advancement.
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