The Black Heavyweight Hero Who Defied His Racist Haters

jack johnson smiling
Via Picryl
Adé Hennis
February 5, 2024

Prosecutors spent years looking for ways to get Jack Johnson locked up because they feared his power, not just as a boxer, but also as a Black man who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

After becoming the first Black world heavyweight champion in 1908, Johnson was not afraid to publicly enjoy his wealth and fame. But many people hated him and envied his success, so they looked for ways to take him down.

Johnson didn’t care about public expectations of what a Black athlete “should” be. So the Department of Justice used the Mann Act, a law that was often used to punish Black men for dating white women, to have Johnson imprisoned for a year. But Johnson’s legacy extended past the boxing ring.

After traveling globally to take on the world’s toughest boxers, Johnson established a land company in Mexico. He invited Black people to leave the racism of the United States for new opportunities abroad. Johnson knew that with prosperity comes power.

Jack Johnson’s true power was to be himself unapologetically in the face of racism. Like him, each of us can act against racism in our own unique ways, because our true power resides within ourselves.

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