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When Jack Johnson, First Black Heavyweight Champion, Defeated Jim Jeffries — the Footage Was Banned Around the World!

In Open Culture, in Film, History, Sports

Johnson’s victory was a triumph for African Americans, who staged parades and celebrations, and a profound defeat for “white boxing fans who hated seeing a black man sit atop the sport,” notes a Johnson biography.

They took out their rage in “race riots” that evening, attacking Black people in cities around the country as collective punishment for a perceived collective humiliation.

Hundreds of people were injured and around 20 killed.

As a result of the violence on July 4, authorities attempted to ban film of the Johnson vs. Jeffries fight, and “police were instructed to break up screening events.” The ostensible reason was that the film caused “rioting,” as though the perpetrators could not themselves be held responsible, and as if the film were itself incendiary.

Read the rest of the story, plus videos from Vox and Black History (featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr.) tell the story…

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