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Jack Johnson

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 a federal law. 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.

See biographies by R. Roberts (1985) and G. C. Ward (2004).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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