The Portraits

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Jack Johnson

Title
Champion Match Johnson-Jeffries
Artist
Adolph Friedlander Lithography Company, active 1872 - 1938
Sitter
Jack Johnson, 30 Mar 1878 - 10 Jun 1946
Date
c. 1910
Type
Print
Medium
Color lithographic poster
Dimensions
Sheet: 94.9 × 68.6 cm (37 3/8 × 27")
Mount: 100 × 71.4 cm (39 3/8 × 28 1/8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
NPG.89.27
Culture
Jack Johnson: American\African American
Exhibition Label
Born Galveston, Texas
This German poster portrays Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, as a dignified athlete of magnificent physique. Advertising a film of his 1910 fight with Jim Jeffries, the image avoids the controversies the bout caused in the United States. Social reformers, who viewed the sport as barbaric, were successful in moving the event from San Francisco to Reno. The match, pitting “the Negroes’ Deliverer” against the “Hope of the White Race,” engendered bitter racial overtones. Upsetting notions of white racial superiority, Johnson’s decisive victory caused race riots around the country, and the film was banned in many American cities. Without reference to such tensions, this image shows an angular, honed Johnson, almost machine-like in power and precision. Produced by a Hamburg company known for its circus advertising, this poster heralds the emergence of sporting events as a major entertainment industry in twentieth-century global culture.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection