Unforgivable Blackness - The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

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Unforgivable Blackness—The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. Ken Burns, dir. 2005. DVD.

DVD Cover

Review: Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson tells the story of the first African-American boxer to win the most coveted title in all of sports and his struggle, in and out of the ring, to live his life as a free man. This riveting two-part documentary follows Jack Johnson's remarkable journey from his humble beginnings in Galveston, Texas, as the son of former slaves, to his entry into the brutal world of professional boxing, where, in turn-of-the-century Jim Crow America, the heavyweight champion was an exclusively "white title." Despite the odds, Johnson was able to battle his way up through the professional ranks, and in 1908 he became the first African-American to earn the title Heavyweight Champion of the World. Johnson's victory set in motion a worldwide search for a Great White Hope to restore the title to the white race. And when no one could be found to beat the champion in the ring, his own government tried to destroy him in the courts, using his relationships with white women as the excuse to prosecute him. Determined to live his life regardless of the confines imposed by his color, Jack Johnson emerges as a central figure in America's ongoing struggle to deal with the question of race.

Additional information, background material, director's commentary and activities related to Ken Burn's Unforgivable Blackness can be found at pbs.org.

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