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Unforgivable Blackness (Parts 1 & 2)
The story of Jack Johnson, the first African American Heavyweight boxing champion. Ken Burns has done an amazing documentary on the life of Jack Johnson -but even more amazing is the story he tells of the times in which Johnson lived. There is still racism in this country, for sure - one wants to believe that at least in most parts of the country, it is a little more circumspect than racism was during Johnson's life. This documentary provides a truly astounding look at this country at the beginning of the century, and a lot of it is unattractive. Johnson, called "The Ethiopian," could not go after the heavyweight title because the white fighters swore no black man would ever have it. When he finally did get it, Jim Jefferson, the undefeated champion, who had refused to fight Johnson, was dragged out of retirement 10 years and 100 pounds later to try to reclaim the title. He failed, and commented that in his prime, he could never have beat Johnson. In his belief system, Johnson came up against a contemporary, Booker T. Washington, who believed that, rather than worry about segregation, blacks should build a power, education, and money base first. Johnson preferred to live as if segregation did not exist. He lived in white neighborhoods, moved his mother into one, flaunted his money, and consorted with white women. His quest for individualism cost him dearly. He bucked a system that simply would not stand for it. This is a fascinating piece of our history, one that should not be missed. (Documentary/Biography/Short)