Jack Johnson

(originally John Arthur) (1878-1946) U.S. heavyweight boxing champion, the first black to hold the title. Born in Galveston, Texas, his career was marked from the beginning by racial discrimination. He won the national heavyweight crown in 1908 by knocking out Tommy Burns and kept it until 1915, when he was knocked out in Havana by Jess Willard in 26 rounds. After he became champion, a cry for a ‘Great White Hope’ to defeat him produced numerous opponents. He was excoriated by the press for twice marrying white women. In 1912 he was convicted of violating the Mann Act for transporting his fiancée across state lines. He fled to Canada and then to Europe, continuing to fight as a fugitive before surrendering in 1920 to serve a one-year sentence. He died in a car crash. He won 80 of his 114 bouts.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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