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Unidentified Photographer

[Jack Johnson and Jess Willard]

Date April 5, 1915
Dimensions Image: 3 1/8 x 5 3/16 in. (7.9 x 13.2 cm)
Paper: 3 3/8 x 5 3/8 in. (8.6 x 13.7 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

This oft-reproduced image depicts the moment when Jess Willard (1881-1968) defeated Jack Johnson (1878-1946) in the twenty-sixth round of their fight in Havana, Cuba, on April 5, 1915. Seven years prior to this fight, Johnson had been named the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World. However, it was argued that in order to truly be the champion, Johnson had to fight Jim Jeffries, a retired boxer who had refused to fight Johnson for many years because of Johnson's color. When Jeffries-billed as "the Great White Hope of the Western World"-did finally agree to fight Johnson in 1910, Johnson won the match, sparking race riots around the country that resulted in the death of numerous African Americans. This image of Willard standing over Johnson may have been popular since it would have placated the anxiety of Americans who were made uneasy by a black's domination of white opponents.

Credit line

Gift of Daniel Cowin, 1990

Feedback Accession No. 1545.1990