Ken Burns: Unforgivable Blackness Series

Lectures curated around Ken Burns: Unforgivable Blackness, a provocative biography of the rise and fall of Jack Johnson.

In Ken Burns's Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Johnson biographer Randy Roberts observes, "The press reacted [to Johnson's victory] as if Armageddon was here. That this may be the moment when it all starts to fall apart for white society." His victory spurred a search among whites for a "great white hope" who could beat Johnson and win back the title. They finally found him in Johnson's old nemesis, Jim Jeffries, who decided to return from retirement and give Johnson the fight he had always wanted. This fight was especially important to Johnson, because many whites had dismissed his claim to the title as invalid; Johnson, it was argued, was never the true champion because he didn't win the title by beating Jeffries. No one had beaten Jeffries, and most thought he was certain to reclaim the title for whites.

Lectures curated around Ken Burns: Unforgivable Blackness, a provocative biography of the rise and fall of Jack Johnson.

In Ken Burns's Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Johnson biographer Randy Roberts observes, "The press reacted [to Johnson's victory] as if Armageddon was here. That this may be the moment when it all starts to fall apart for white society." His victory spurred a search among whites for a "great white hope" who could beat Johnson and win back the title. They finally found him in Johnson's old nemesis, Jim Jeffries, who decided to return from retirement and give Johnson the fight he had always wanted. This fight was especially important to Johnson, because many whites had dismissed his claim to the title as invalid; Johnson, it was argued, was never the true champion because he didn't win the title by beating Jeffries. No one had beaten Jeffries, and most thought he was certain to reclaim the title for whites.