Jack Johnson

First African American Boxing Champion


502nd Air Base Wing

According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Black History Month dates back to 1915. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the ASALH and Black History Month, chose the month of February for the observance because it includes the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Tommy Brown/Released)

By Caleb Fojtik, Staff Writer

Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878.

Twenty-five years later, he became the first African American to take home the world heavyweight boxing championship. He continued to hold onto the championship for the next seven years; however, he continued to box until he was 50. He died due to a car accident in 1946 at the age of 68.

Even though he was gone, his legend continued.

In 1970 he was played by actor James Earl  Jones in The Great White Hope. Twenty years later he was finally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Also in 2004 his life was studied in Ken Burns’ documentary Unforgivable Blackness.