The Portraits

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

Artist
Paul Thompson, active early 20th Century
Sitter
Jack Johnson, 30 Mar 1878 - 10 Jun 1946
Date
c. 1910
Type
Photograph
Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image/Sheet: 18.7 x 14.1 cm (7 3/8 x 5 9/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
NPG.97.100
Exhibition Label
Jack Johnson was a world champion heavyweight boxer, nightclub owner, and automobile enthusiast who lived his life in defiance of Jim Crow segregation. White boxers avoided Johnson since they feared losing to a man of an "inferior race," and he chased a few around the world to shame them into fighting him. His boxing style combined power, equipoise, and looseness: he stood in the center of the ring and taunted opponents as they tried to avoid his long reach. A charismatic man with extraordinary confidence, Johnson married three white women. A night owl and raconteur, he raced around in convertibles and often played classical cello at his Club Deluxe in Chicago. The legend that Johnson was refused passage on the Titanic is untrue, but it reveals the era’s racial realities. The need for a "Great White Hope" in boxing began with Johnson, and white boxers refused to fight blacks for a generation. In 1971 Miles Davis composed a soundtrack in his honor, A Tribute to Jack Johnson.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection