Cover image for The pussycat of prizefighting : Tiger Flowers and the politics of Black celebrity
The pussycat of prizefighting : Tiger Flowers and the politics of Black celebrity
Kaye, Andrew M., 1971-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
208 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction : Tiger or pussycat? -- Black prizefighters as slaves and free men -- Jack Johnson, white hopes, and battle royals -- Becoming the Georgia Deacon -- The whitest Black man in the ring -- Epilogue : he's gone, gone home.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1132.F56 K394 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"In 1926 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers became the first African American boxer to win the world middleweight title. The next year he was dead, the victim of surgery gone wrong. His funeral in Atlanta drew tens of thousands of mourners, black and white. Atlantans would not grieve again in comparable numbers until the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968." "Flowers, whose career was sandwiched between those of the better-known black boxers Jack Johnson and Joe Louis, was not America's first successful black athlete. He was, however, the first to generate widespread goodwill among whites, especially in the South, where he became known as "the whitest black man in the ring."" "The Pussycat of Prizefighting is an analysis of the cultural and historical currents that defined the terms of Flowers's success as both a man and an athlete. As we discover the sources of Flowers's immense popularity, Andrew Kaye also helps us to understand more the pressures and dilemmas facing African Americans in the public eye." "Through the prism of prizefighting, this book reveals the personal cost African Americans faced as they attempted to earn black respect while escaping white hostility. Andrew Kaye gives us much to ponder about our own hopes and prejudices - and how we often burden our athletes and celebrities with them."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The whitest black man in the ring, middleweight Tiger Flowers was a wildly famous world champion in the 1920s. Historically situated between two archetypal black champions--flamboyant, reviledackohnson and credit-to-his-raceoe Louis--Flowers gets little attention from boxing historians these days. But, asaye argues, his life story says much about the complexity of race in sports and beyond. Flowers, widely characterized as a charming gentleman, was held up as a role model by many in both the white and black communities, while some of his black peers considered him a prototypical Uncle Tom. Althoughaye focuses on Flowers' life and the public response to his career in his native Georgia, readers also learn much about the fascinating history of boxing in black America. The slow pace and professorial tone will turn off those accustomed to a more accessible style, but this textured portrayal of theim Crow South and one of its black heroes makes a significant contribution to the history of race relations. --John Green Copyright 2004 Booklist

Choice Review

This problematic book on the first black middleweight champion starts with great promise, but it turns into more a circular description of Flowers' life than an analysis of "the politics of black celebrity" promised by the subtitle. Drawing on a multitude of historical sources and observations, Kaye (American history, Univ. of Durham, UK) describes the prizefighter's experiences and his early death but never really gets to the next level, an analysis and critique of Flowers' career. Neither a popular title nor a fully referenced academic book, the volume provides details without helping the reader gain insight. Kaye holds his subject up as a hope of black integration, yet he misses the chance to analyze white and black Americans' categorization of race. For example, he does not address why Flowers was not a white fighter, given the fact that his father was white and he grew up in a white neighborhood. The strongest part of the book is the epilogue, in which Kaye starts to put black fighters in historical and racial context. Unfortunately, after starting this discussion he adds, "... not that it necessarily matters." Overall, this book does not live up to the promise of its title. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended. D. M. Furst San Jose State University