Week of Feb. 3-9
1908—Jack Johnson becomes the first Black heavyweight boxing champion by defeating Tommy Burns in Australia. Although he was not officially given the title until 1910 after he defeated the American Jim Jeffries in Las Vegas. Many Whites reacted violently to his defeat of Jeffries sparking riots in several cities. In Johnson’s home state of Texas, films of Johnson defeating White opponents were banned. Johnson reigned as heavyweight champion for 7 years. But he had two “faults”—he believed in speaking his mind and he liked White women. Those two tendencies landed him in jail in 1920 on trumped up charges of violating the Mann Act—a law that made it illegal to transport White women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Johnson, who is arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, died in an automobile accident near Raleigh, N.C., on June 10, 1946.