Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Unforgivable Blackness: A Film Directed by Ken Burns

About the Film Rebel of the Progressive Era Sparring The Fight of the Century Knockout Ghost in the House For Teachers
Sparring
Galveston

Johnson's Rise

Contemporaries

Boxing Glossary

Timeline
Timeline
1878-1899
March 31, 1878: Arthur John "Jack" Johnson is born in Galveston, Texas.
Photo: Galveston
1879: Thomas Edison invents the electric light bulb.
July 4, 1881: The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute is founded in Alabama. Booker T. Washington is the school's first president.
Photo: Brooklyn Bridge
1883: The Brooklyn Bridge is completed. Three years later, an Irish immigrant named Steve Brodie claims to have survived a jump from the bridge.
1887-1892: Jim Crow laws emerge in the South.
1889: Jane Addams opens Hull-House in Chicago.
1890: Johnson claims to have run away from home and traveled to New York to meet his hero, Steve Brodie.
September 7, 1892: Jim Corbett takes the heavyweight title from John L. Sullivan after 21 rounds in New Orleans.
Summer 1895: Johnson fights a Galveston dockworker, John Lee, on the beach. Johnson wins the fight and the $1.50 winner's purse.
December 15, 1895: Charles A. Dana, the editor of the New York Sun, warns readers: "The black man is rapidly forging to the front ranks in athletics, especially in the field of fisticuffs. We are in the midst of a black rise against white supremacy."
September 18, 1895: Booker T. Washington delivers his "Atlanta Compromise" speech before a mostly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exhibition, saying: "...in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."
Photo: Booker T. Washington
1895-1898: Johnson works as a longshoreman in Galveston, and travels to other towns to look for something better.
May 18, 1896: In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that "separate but equal" laws are not unconstitutional, legitimizing the Jim Crow system.
October 1896: In New York, Johnson applies for a job as sparring partner for black welterweight Bill Quinn but is turned down.
April-August 1898: Spanish-American War.
1898: Johnson may have married childhood friend Mary Austin. No record of the marriage exists.
May 5, 1899: Johnson lands his first big-city fight at the Howard Theater in Chicago, against a black heavyweight named John Haines, who fought under the name Klondike.


1900-1909
May 1, 1900: Johnson takes on his first white opponent, an Australian named Jim Scanlon, whom he knocks out in the seventh round.
September 8, 1900: A hurricane sweeps across Galveston, killing more than 6,000 people. Johnson's family survives, but the family home at 808 Broadway does not.
January 1901: Johnson travels to Memphis where he defeats Klondike and is set for a rematch against Jim Scanlon — until the chief of police cancels the fight at the last minute.
Photo: Johnson and Joe Choynski in the Galveston jail
February 25, 1901: Boxer Joe Choynski comes to Galveston. He knocks Johnson out in the third round, but both boxers are arrested for engaging in an illegal contest. They spend 23 days in jail together, during which time Choynski teaches Johnson some of his tricks.
March 8, 1901: The grand jury fails to return indictments against Johnson and Choynski, and the sheriff lets them out of jail with orders to get out of town. Johnson hops a freight train for Denver, where he joins a group of boxers living and training at Ryan's Sand Creek House. Mary Austin joins him there for a time.
November 15, 1901: In San Francisco, Johnson watches Jim Jeffries successfully defend his title against Gus Ruhlin.
May 16, 1902: Johnson gets his first big break, a fight with Jack Jeffries, younger brother of the current heavyweight champion, Jim Jeffries. Johnson knocks out Jeffries in the fifth round.
February 3, 1903: Jack Johnson beats "Denver" Ed Martin to win the unofficial "Negro heavyweight championship."
Photo: Jack Johnson and 'Denver' Ed Martin
Summer 1903: Johnson meets Clara Kerr in Philadelphia.
November 29, 1903: The Los Angeles Times calls on Jeffries to take on Jack Johnson, writing:
Jack Johnson is now the logical opponent for Champion Jeffries .... The color line gag does not go now. Johnson has met all comers in his class; has defeated each and every one. Now he stands ready to box for the world's championship .... When they meet the world will see a battle before which the gladiatorial combats of ancient Rome pale into childish insignificance. And meet they some day will. It is up to Jeffries to say when."
December 17, 1903: Orville Wright takes the first powered airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
October 1904: Johnson confronts Jim Jeffries in a San Francisco saloon.
1905: W.E.B. DuBois and others form the Niagra Movement, forerunner to the NAACP. In contrast to Booker T. Washington's accommodation philosophy, the Niagra Movement calls for full political, civil and social rights for African-Americans.
May 2, 1905: Jim Jeffries announces his retirement, saying that there are no more "logical challengers" left for him to fight.
Photo: Marvin Hart and Jack Root
July 3, 1905: In a "fight to the finish" refereed by Jeffries, Marvin Hart knocks out former light heavyweight champion Jack Root to become the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.
February 23, 1906: Hart loses the heavyweight title to Tommy Burns.
March 28, 1905: In a controversial decision, Hart defeats Johnson after a 20-round fight in San Francisco.
April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake and subsequent fire in San Francisco kill more than 3,000 people.
August 8, 1907: Johnson meets Hattie McClay, a prostitute working in Manhattan.
1908: Henry T. Ford introduces the Model T automobile.
Fall 1908: Australian promoter Hugh "Huge Deal" McIntosh offers $30,000 (plus the majority of film proceeds) to Tommy Burns to fight Johnson.
December 26, 1908: Johnson defeats Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia, to become the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Photo: Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns
April 7, 1908: Explorer Robert Peary reaches the North Pole.
March 10, 1909: The day after returning from Australia, Johnson defeats Victor McLaglen in Vancouver, British Columbia.
April 1909: Johnson meets Belle Schreiber at Chicago's Everleigh Club.
April 19, 1909: Jim Jeffries announces that he will come out of retirement to attempt to win back the title from Johnson.
Johnson and Jack O'Brien
May 19, 1909: In Philadelphia, Johnson retains his title against Jack O'Brien after a six-round No Decision fight.
June 1, 1909: A group of white civil rights advocates merges with the Niagra Movement to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
June 30, 1909: Johnson defeats Tony Ross in Pittsburgh.
September 9, 1909: Johnson defeats "Big" Al Kaufmann in Colma, California.
October 1909: Johnson meets Etta Duryea at the Vanderbilt Cup car race on Long Island.
October 16, 1909: In Colma, California, Johnson defeats Stanley Ketchel after 12 rounds. Johnson knocks out Stanley Ketchel, 
	1909
November 30, 1909: Promoter George Lewis "Tex" Rickard wins the right to stage the Johnson-Jeffries fight, offering $101,000 — the largest purse in boxing history. The fight is set for July 4, 1910, in San Francisco.


1910-1919
June 15, 1910: California governor James N. Gilette withdraws his support for the fight, forcing Rickard to find another location in less than three weeks. He choses Reno, Nevada.
June 25, 1910: President William Howard Taft signs the White Slave Traffic Act, better known as the Mann Act, into law. It bans the transportation of women across state lines "for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose."
Johnson knocks out Jim 
	Jeffries, 1910
July 4, 1910: Before a crowd of 12,000 people in Reno, Nevada, Johnson defeats Jim Jeffries and retains the heavyweight title.
July 4-5, 1910: Johnson's victory spawns race rioting all over the United States. At least 26 people are killed, and dozens are injured.
December 25, 1910: Suspecting her of having an affair with his chauffeur, Johnson beats Etta Duryea so badly that she is hospitalized. They reconcile, however, and she blames her injuries on a fall from a streetcar.
January 18, 1911: Johnson and Etta Duryea are married in Pittsburgh.
April 15, 1912: The ocean liner Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage, killing about 1,500 of the 2,200 people on board.
July 4, 1912: In Las Vegas, New Mexico, Johnson knocks out "Fireman" Jim Flynn after nine rounds and retains the heavyweight title.
Photo: Jack Johnson and Jim Flynn in the ring with managers and referee
July 11, 1912: Johnson opens the Café de Champion, a mixed-race nightclub in Chicago.
July 31, 1912: Congress passes a law banning the interstate shipment of boxing films.
September 11, 1912: Etta Duryea Johnson commits suicide in the apartment above the Café de Champion.
October 4, 1912: Responding to mass protests, John E. W. Wayman, state's attorney for Cook County, Illinois, shuts down Chicago's Levee District.
October 17, 1912: Johnson is arrested in Chicago and charged with violating the Mann Act by kidnapping Lucille Cameron and transporting her from Milwaukee to Chicago for the purpose of prostitution. Cameron refuses to cooperate, and the case falls apart.
October 30, 1912: Chicago authorities shut down the Café de Champion, declaring that Johnson is "an undesirable person and of bad character."
November 7, 1912: Johnson is arrested again for violating the Mann Act, this time for charges involving Belle Schreiber.
Photo: Johnson marries Lucille Cameron
December 4, 1912: Johnson marries Lucille Cameron at the Chicago home of his mother, Tiny Johnson.
December 11, 1912: Georgia congressman Seaborn A. Roddenberry introduces a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage between whites and "any and all persons of African descent or having any trace of African blood." The bill fails.
May 17, 1913: Johnson's trial begins in Chicago, with Judge George Albert Carpenter presiding. An all-white jury takes less than two hours to find Johnson guilty.
June 4, 1913: Johnson is sentenced to one year and one day in Federal prison. He skips bail and leaves the country. Lucille Cameron is waiting for him when he appears in Montreal on June 25.
June 27, 1914: Johnson takes on Frank Moran at the Velodrome d'Hiver in Paris. After 20 lackluster rounds, Johnson is declared the winner. The next afternoon, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary is assasinated in Sarajevo, starting the chain of events that triggers World War I.
February 8, 1915: D.W. Griffith's film Birth of a Nation opens, painting a sympathetic portrait of the Ku Klux Klan.
April 5, 1915: In Havana, Cuba, Jess Willard knocks out Johnson in the 26th round and takes the heavyweight title.
Photo: Jess Willard knocks out Johnson in Havana
April 6, 1917: The United States enters World War I.
January 18, 1919: The Treaty of Versailles ends World War I.
January 29, 1919: The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bans the "manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors."
July 4, 1919: Jack Dempsey wins the heavyweight title from Jess Willard.


1920-1946
July 20, 1920: Johnson surrenders to U.S. authorities in Tijuana.
Photo: Johnson's mug shot
September 19, 1920: Johnson drives himself to the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, and begins his sentence.
August 18, 1920: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees women the right to vote.
September 28, 1920: A Chicago grand jury indicts eight players on the Chicago "Black Sox" for throwing the 1919 World Series.
November 25, 1920: On Thanksgiving Day, Johnson stages exhibition matches against "Topeka Jack" Johnson and Frank Owens in the Leavenworth prison yard.
July 9, 1921: Johnson is released from prison.
February 1924: Lucille Cameron files for divorce from Johnson, charging him with infidelity. Johnson does not contest.
1925: A. Philip Randolph forms the Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful black trade union.
August 1925: Johnson marries Irene Pineau in her hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.
Photo: Johnson and Irene Pineau
October 1926: Paul Robeson opens on Broadway in Black Boy, a play that paints a thinly veiled, unsympathetic portrait of Johnson.
July 1927: Johnson publishes his autobiography, Jack Johnson — In the Ring and Out.
September 25, 1927: In the controversial "Long Count" rematch, Gene Tunney successfully defends his title against Jack Dempsey.
May 21, 1927: Charles Lindburgh flies from Long Island to Paris in 33 hours and 29 minutes.
October 29, 1929: The American stock market crashes.
June 12, 1930: In a title bout, Jack Sharkey fouls and Max Schmeling wins by default, becoming Heavyweight Champion of the World.
December 5, 1933: The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and ending the Prohibition Era.
August, 1936: African-American Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics.
June 19, 1936: In their first bout at Yankee Stadium, Max Schmeling defeats Joe Louis in the 12th round.
June 22, 1937: Joe Louis knocks out Jimmy Braddock to become the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World since Jack Johnson.
June 22, 1938: In Yankee Stadium, Joe Louis knocks out Max Schmeling in the first round of their rematch.
July 19, 1941: The U.S Department of War forms the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
December 8, 1941: The United States enters World War II, a day after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
1942: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is founded in Chicago.
August 15, 1945: Japan surrenders to the United States, ending World War II.
Photo: Johnson's headstone
June 9, 1946: Jack Johnson is killed in an automobile accident outside Raleigh, North Carolina.