Oscar Winning Muslim American Actor Mahershala Ali will play Jack Johnson in an upcoming biopic series about the boxer’s inspirational life.
Johnson became the first African-American world heavyweight champion in 1908 – when he defeated Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia.
From his journey to boxing greatness, to the disgraceful discrimination and oppression he faced because of his skin colour – the show will bring Johnson’s remarkable story to a modern audience.
Muslim American Actor Ali, who has played Johnson before in a 2000 stage production about the great champion and has since won academy awards for his roles in Moonlight and Green Book, is not the only star to have signed up to the project.
Who was Jack Johnson?
John Arthur Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), nicknamed the “Galveston Giant”, was an American boxer became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915).
Among the period’s most dominant champions, Johnson remains a boxing legend, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the “fight of the century”.
In 1912, Johnson opened a successful and luxurious “black and tan” (desegregated) restaurant and nightclub, which in part was run by his wife, a white woman.
Major newspapers of the time soon claimed that Johnson was attacked by the government only after he became famous as a black man married to a white woman, and was linked to other white women.
Johnson was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act—forbidding one to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”—a racially motivated charge that embroiled him in controversy for his relationships, including marriages, with white women.
There were also allegations of domestic violence. Sentenced to a year in prison, Johnson fled the country and fought boxing matches abroad for seven years until 1920 when he served his sentence at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth.
Johnson continued taking paying fights for many years, and operated several other businesses, including lucrative endorsement deals. Johnson died in a car crash on June 10, 1946, at the age of 68.
He is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.