Cover image for The fight of the century : Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and the struggle for racial equality
The fight of the century : Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and the struggle for racial equality
Hietala, Thomas R., 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, [2002]

Physical Description:
375 pages, 14 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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GV1131 .H64 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book examines the history of race relations in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century through the lives and times of two leading African-American sports figures, the boxers Jack Johnson and Joe Louis. The author explores how the public careers and private lives of the first two African American heavyweight boxing champions both define and explain vital issues in U.S. history. He incorporates extensive research into the black press of the time. And he organizes the major events - the John Jeffries "fight of the century" in 1910, the Mann Act trial, Louis's two bouts with Max Schmeling in the 1930s, Louis's enlistment in the Army in 1942 - around the principle themes of the book: the persistence of prejudice and segregation from the early 1900s to the late 1940s; the two boxers' symbolic significance to black Americans; and the hopes that their success in the ring inspired.

Author Notes

Thomas R. Hietala is professor of history at Grinnell College

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Boxing and civil rights are rarely discussed in the same sentence without Muhammad Ali. But here is an entire book about race in boxing that barely mentions Ali, focusing instead on two other African American heavyweight champions, Jack Johnson and Joe Louis. Johnson stunned the white world when he successfully defended his title against Jim Jeffries, the first and greatest Great White Hope, on July 4, 1910. But Johnson's career and life derailed when he married a white woman, enraging blacks and whites alike. Eventually convicted of forcing white women into prostitution, Johnson spent years in exile and prison. He also, curiously, advised Max Schmeling on how to beat Joe Louis. The defeat of the German Schmeling by Louis in 1937 represented not only a victory of black over white but also of democracy over Nazism. Descriptions of the actual boxing matches are brief and a tad dry, but Hietala evokes the larger fight--for equal opportunity inside the ring and out--with passion and detail, discussing history and politics alongside the careers of two pioneering black champs. --John Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Among the most prominent African Americans between the end of the first Reconstruction and the beginning of the second," heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Joe Louis embodied the hopes of black America. Through their stories, historian Thomas R. Hietala explores race relations in his scholarly but accessible history, The Fight of the Century: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and the Struggle for Equality. He traces the extraordinary symbolic meaning their victories had for both black and white spectators and media, and the historical backdrop against which their respective victories took place, from the rash of exceptionally brutal lynchings of the 1910s and Woodrow Wilson's frankly anti-integration policies, to the evolution of the urban ghetto and the persistence of Jim Crow in the 1930s and 1940s. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This volume, now in its fourth edition, presents nine brief industry/market studies (in the tradition of the economics of industrial organization: structure-conduct-performance) and four firm studies. In the industry studies (airline service, banking, brewing, cigarettes, distilled spirits, health insurance, motion pictures, soft drinks, sports), the industrial organization approach is augmented by considerations of strategic game theory. Standard concepts appear as appropriate: the identities of the leading firms and their market shares and industry concentration (with trends), scale economies, entry barriers, antitrust, product differentiation, reaction functions, government regulation, vertical integration and distribution systems, and branding and advertising. Chapters on firms illustrate the difficulties in maintaining market share (GM, Schlitz); in defending market share from antitrust (Microsoft); and in attaining market share despite first-mover advantage (TiVo). This collection, edited by economics professors (both, Oregon State Univ.), is a unique, useful adjunct to standard textbooks in courses on markets and industrial organization. Only one of the 13 chapters is beyond the abilities of undergraduates with a good introductory microeconomics course. Excellent footnotes. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate students. Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates. Reviewed by R. A. Miller.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Many Thousand Gone"
1 "A Retribution Seeks": White Repression and Black Redemption
2 "A Tempest of Dispraise": From Black Hope to Black Burden
3 "Under the White Man's Menace": Divisive Wars at Home and Abroad
4 "Outcasts Asylumed": Exile's Return and Legacy
5 "Don't You Fall Now": A New Race Ambassador Emerges
6 "No Other Dream, No Land But This": Black Americans and the Enemy Within
7 "Another World Be Born": In Search of Victory at Home and Abroad
8 "The Harder They Fall": A Champion's Life and Legend
About the Author