HS – African Americans in Progressive-Era CT: The Battle over the Jack Johnson Fight Film

Frank Jonientz, Library Technical Assistant, Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project
Connecticut State Library


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Popular Culture, Social Movements, Sports & Recreation
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Bridgeport, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Censorship, Racism, Morality, African American, Sports, Civil Rights, Progressive Era
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What does the battle over the Johnson-Jeffries fight film tell us about the social position of African Americans in Progressive-Era Connecticut?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • Why was the film censored?
  • Who was pushing for censorship?
  • What were some of the responses by government officials to the controversy?
  • How did the companies that controlled the film respond to the banning of the film?
  • How did the African American community respond to the censorship of the film?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

"Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin's Fight Returns". Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910
“Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin’s Fight Returns,” Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download the image “Portion of the Crowd Listening to The Bulletin’s Fight Returns,” Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the newspaper.
Detail of the article "Buckingham's Attitude On Fight Pictures," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Buckingham’s Attitude On Fight Pictures,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 6, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of the article "Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures," Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910 . Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Download an image of the article “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Jeffries-Johnson Fight Pictures,” Norwich Bulletin, July 8, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
"Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
“Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download the image of the article “Negro Parson Wants Fight Pictures Shown,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail from the article "War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People ," Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail from the article “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910. Click on the image to read the entire article – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910 , or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “War Against Pictures Leads To Prohibition Before 25,000,000, People,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 11, 1910 , or click on the image above to link to the article.
Detail of the article "The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada". Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910 - Click on the image to read the entire article. - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Detail of the article “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910 – Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “The Aftermath of the Great Johnson and Jeffries Fight at Reno, Nevada,” Broadax (Salt Lake City UT), July 16, 1910, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson, Bain News Service, ca. 1910-1915 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

In July 1910, Jack Johnson, an African American prizefighter, beat Jim Jeffries, a white prizefighter, for the World Heavyweight Championship. A commercial film of the bout was made and distributed. Before the film could be widely shown, state and local governments passed laws banning it.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

If you choose, start by showing the 3:37 clip of the Johnson-Jeffries fight from 1910.

You may choose to use the full set of resources provided or focus on two or three articles. There is also a photograph of Jack Johnson available to share with the class.

Break the students into groups and have each group work with one or even a set of resources. Have students gather evidence and inferences about the controversy over the Johnson-Jeffries fight film. You may wish to use some of the supporting questions to guide the inquiry:

  • Why was the film censored?
  • Who was pushing for censorship?
  • What were some of the responses by government officials to the controversy?
  • How did the companies that controlled the film respond to the banning of the film?
  • How did the African American community respond to the censorship of the film?

Bring the class together to share their findings and remaining questions. Discuss how or where students could find answers or learn more.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students, acting as if they were living in Connecticut in 1910, will write a letter to the editor of the Bridgeport Evening Farmer or the Norwich Bulletin in response to any of the articles provided, arguing for or against the showing of the film in their town or in the state.

Students will compare the Johnson fight film controversy to a contemporary controversy over popular culture or censorship and prepare a short oral or written presentation on the comparison.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ