Boxing and Race

Boxing was not only the most popular sport in the world during the time of Johnson’s career, which began and ended in the time of Jim Crow, but it was also one of the few professional sports in the United States that was not racially segregated during the early twentieth century.

However, there was more to this brutal legislation than the obvious separation of blacks and whites. One of the most sizable outcomes of the Jim Crow Laws was the exploitation of black labor in the United States. While a career as a professional athlete may sound much more ideal, the logistics of it are from it. Johnson and other black boxers and black athletes in general grew into figures who were larger than life in American culture.

Boxing was known as sometimes being unusually “modern, fair and even democratic” when it cameto race (Hughes). But, while boxing was indeed an integrated sport and even more so a pop culture phenomenon, its hierarchies and culture were not any more free from mindsets of white supremacy. It was unlikely that a black boxer couldbe successful without a white manager behind him; and, in fact, Johnson kept this goal in mind when he first entered the world of boxing.