Section One

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Champion-Match Johnson-Jeffries
Jack Johnson
Adolph Friedlander Lithography Company, c. 1910

This German poster portrays Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, as a dignified athlete of magnificent physique. Advertising a film of his 1910 fight with Jim Jeffries, the image avoids the controversies the bout caused in the United States. Social reformers, who viewed the sport as barbaric, were successful in moving the event from San Francisco to Reno.

The match, pitting “the Negroes’ Deliverer” against the “Hope of the White Race,” engendered bitter racial overtones. Upsetting notions of white racial superiority, Johnson’s decisive victory caused race riots around the country, and the film was banned in many American cities. Without reference to such tensions, this poster, produced by a Hamburg company known for its circus advertising, heralds the emergence of sporting events as a major entertainment industry in twentieth-century global culture.