Johnson, Jack, 1878-1946

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John "Jack" Arthur Johnson (1878-1946), professional boxing's heavyweight champion from 1908 to 1915, began boxing while working as a longshoreman in Galveston, Texas. In 1899 he toured America with other black fighters, and by 1902 he had established himself as a fearsome contender for the heavyweight title. But the racism then prevalent in the boxing business prevented him from realizing quick success with his skills, and Johnson was compelled to devise a vaudeville act to maintain an increasingly flamboyant lifestyle. By 1908 Johnson had fought fifty-seven matches, winning all but three, and had beaten all contenders for the title, thus finally earning a match with champion Tommy Burns. They fought in Sydney, Australia, and Johnson won in fourteen rounds. His victory, however, was unfavorably received by racists, and many began clamoring for a "great white hope" to take the title from Johnson. Former champion Jim Jeffries, who had retired as undefeated champion in 1905, was prompted to fight Johnson. Their fight ended in fifteen rounds when Johnson knocked out the challenger. In the years immediately following his title defense, Johnson was involved in several scandals; one resulted in a trial in which the boxer was convicted of transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, a violation of the Mann Act. Protesting the decision, he fled to Europe and worked there as an entertainer. In 1915 he agreed to fight another "white hope," Jess Willard. Held in Havana, Cuba, the match lasted twenty-six rounds before Johnson was knocked out. After losing the title to Willard, Johnson returned to Europe and resumed working as a performer. In 1920 he came back to the United States to serve his sentence. Upon release from prison, Johnson supported himself by boxing, lecturing, and selling stocks.

From the description of Johnson, John A. (John Arthur), 1878-1946 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10610251

Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was the first African-American boxer to win the heavyweight title. A controversial figure, Johnson was famous for the furor that surrounded his heavyweight championship, his flamboyant lifestyle, and his association with white women. His victory against retired boxer Jim Jefferies, who was referred to in the press as "the great white hope," triggered riots in many cities throughout the United States. Johnson lost his title in 1915 against white boxer Jess Willard, and continued to box until 1938, when he fought his last professional fight.

From the description of Jack Johnson scrapbooks, 1908-1944. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 703432038

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Riley and Betty Parker clippings collection, [ca. 1880]-1912. Museum of New Mexico Library
referencedIn New Mexico. Governor (1912-1916 : McDonald). Governor William C. McDonald papers, 1880-1968 (bulk, 1912- 1916). New Mexico State Library
referencedIn Hodgson, Ralph, 1871-1962. Letters and cards : London, to John Freeman, London, 1914-1916. Bryn Mawr College, Mariam Coffin Canaday Library
referencedIn Records of District Courts of the United States. 1685 - 2009. Criminal Case Files. 1873 - 1991. The United States v. John Arthur Johnson, otherwise known as Jack Johnson. 4/30/1913 - 11/11/1920. John A. Johnson's Guilty Verdict
referencedIn Riley and Betty Parker Clippings Collection, ca. 1880-1912 Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, New Mexico History Museum.
referencedIn Link, Carl, 1887-. Carl Link postcard collection, circa 1904-circa 1960. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
creatorOf Records of District Courts of the United States. 1685 - 2009. Criminal Case Files. 1873 - 1991. The United States v. John Arthur Johnson, otherwise known as Jack Johnson. 4/30/1913 - 11/11/1920. John A. Johnson's Guilty Verdict
referencedIn Sports Card Album Col 14379., Circa 1880-circa 1920 (bulk 1909-1913) Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library
referencedIn Cusick, Kenneth, 1926-. Kenneth Cusick family papers, 1860s-1938. Nevada State Historical Society
referencedIn Sackler, Howard. The great white hope : typescript of play, 1967. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Records of the Bureau of Prisons. 1870 - 2009. Inmate Case Files
referencedIn Clarence W. Rowley papers relating to Buffalo Bill and John L. Sullivan, 1878-1941, 1910-1920 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Play Bill and Magazine clippings : the Great White hope: a play, 1969. Temple University, Blockson Afro-American History Collection
creatorOf Johnson, Jack, 1878-1946. Jack Johnson scrapbooks, 1908-1944. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Craig, D. I. (David Irwin), 1849-1925. D.I. Craig papers, 1876-1929. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn The Thornton Collection of Manuscripts and Plans, 1518-1962 University of Dundee
referencedIn Rowley, Clarence W. Clarence W. Rowley papers relating to Buffalo Bill and John L. Sullivan, 1878-1941 (bulk 1910-1920). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Burns, Tommy, 1881-1955. person
associatedWith Craig, D. I. (David Irwin), 1849-1925. person
associatedWith Cusick, Kenneth, 1926- person
associatedWith Hodgson, Ralph, 1871-1962. person
associatedWith Jeannette, Joe, 1879-1958. person
associatedWith Jeffries, James J., 1875-1953. person
associatedWith Langford, Sam, 1883-1956. person
associatedWith Link, Carl, 1887- person
associatedWith McVey, Sam, 1884-1921. person
associatedWith Messrs Thomas Thornton, Son & Co WS corporateBody
associatedWith New Mexico. Governor (1912-1916 : McDonald) corporateBody
associatedWith Parker, Betty person
associatedWith Parker, Riley person
associatedWith Rowley, Clarence W. person
associatedWith Sackler, Howard. person
associatedWith Simone, Abe, 1913-1969. person
associatedWith Willard, Jess, 1881-1968. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Boxers (Sports)
African American athletes
African American boxers


Birth 1878-03-31

Death 1946-06-10





Ark ID: w67379t5

SNAC ID: 38653888