“Even those with a passing knowledge of the tumultuous career of the first black heavyweight boxing champion will be amazed by the depth and range of detail in Burns' irresistibly engrossing study.” — Variety
Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
Before Muhammad Ali there was only one black boxing champion who dared to flaunt his superiority – and he lived at a time when white supremacy was not to be challenged in any quarter. The legendary Jack Johnson remains a hero of African-American empowerment. Directed by Ken Burns (Frank Lloyd Wright, the Jazz series), this superb in-depth account of his career makes the reasons blindingly clear – and reveals volumes about race in America.
“Masterly… Even those with a passing knowledge of the tumultuous career of the first black heavyweight boxing champion will be amazed by the depth and range of detail in Burns’ irresistibly engrossing study of ‘a self-defined man’ who behaved as though prejudice didn’t exist and enraged most of the white population in the process… Imposingly large, eloquent, well-read, a man of the world, hugely talented in the ring and a ‘sport’ with the fatal habit of consorting with white women, Johnson would not be denied the title even though the white champions of the time mostly wouldn’t fight men of his color.” — Todd McCarthy, Variety