“Jack Johnson ‘The Galveston Giant’ “
Oil, acrylic, and collage on canvas over particle board
John Arthur Johnson, otherwise known as Jack Johnson, was born in 1878 in Galveston Texas to parents of former slaves. Johnson nicknamed “The Galveston Giant” was an American heavyweight boxer who at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American to win the heavyweight title by defeating Tommy Burns in 1908. For more than thirteen years Johnson was the most famous and notorious African American on Earth. He battled his way from obscurity to the top of the heavyweight ranks and won the greatest title prize in American sports that had previously only been reserved for white combatants. Upon his defeat of Tommy Burns and winning the heavyweight championship, race riots erupted throughout the country. Johnson accomplished this at the low point for African Americans after emancipation. Johnson insisted on being free and took orders from no one. When most African Americans struggled to merely survive, Johnson reveled in his riches and fame. At a time when the mere suspicion of a black man flirting with a white woman could cost him his life, Johnson dated and slept with whomever he please. Only to be persecuted by his own government, years of exile, stripped of his heavyweight title, and incarcerated. “Just Remember”, Johnson told a young reporter not long before he died, “whatever you write about me, tell them I was a Man”. This painting includes a collage of newspaper cartoons from the early part of the 20th century contrasted with actual photos of Jack Johnson.
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