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Johnson, Jack(John Arthur Johnson), 1878–1946, American boxer, b. Galveston, Tex., the son of two ex-slaves. Emerging from the battle royals (dehumanizing fights between blacks for the amusement of white patrons) of his youth, he defeated Tommy Burns in 1908 to become the world's first African-American heavyweight champion. After an interracial marriage and his defeat of several white hopefuls, Johnson was convicted in 1913 under contrived circumstances for violation of the Mann Act (see Mann, James RobertMann, James Robert,
1856–1922, American legislator, b. McLean co., Ill. A Chicago lawyer, he held many local offices before serving (1897–1922) as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
..... Click the link for more information. ). He fled to Europe and remained a champion in exile until he lost in a 1915 bout in Cuba, knocked out in the 26th round by Jess Willard. Upon his return to the United States in 1920, he served a year in prison; he was posthumously pardoned in 2018.
See biographies by R. Roberts (1985) and G. C. Ward (2004).
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Johnson, (John Arthur) Jack(1878–1946) boxer; born in Galveston, Texas. The first black to win the world heavyweight title, he was one of boxing's greatest and most controversial champions. He worked as a janitor, dockhand, and stableboy before becoming a professional boxer in 1899. After winning the title in 1908 with a knockout of Tommy Burns, he defended the championship against a succession of "great white hopes," including former champion James J. Jeffries, who came out of a six-year retirement in 1910 only to be knocked out in the 15th round. Because of his flamboyance and self-confidence—and his marriage to a white woman—Johnson incurred the wrath of racist politicians and religious leaders who successfully secured a Mann Act conviction against him in 1913. He took sanctuary in Europe and lost the championship in 1915 to Jess Willard by a knockout in the 26th round. Johnson later returned to the U.S.A. to serve his sentence and to fight in boxing exhibitions. He spent his final years operating nightclubs and working in carnivals. He posted a career record of 78 wins, eight losses, and 12 no-decisions, with 45 knockouts. A play (1968) and motion picture (1970) based on his life, The Great White Hope, starred James Earl Jones.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.