Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Censoring Black Supremacy

Barak Y. Orbach, University of Arizona, has published, "The Johnson-Jeffries Fight and Censorship of Black Supremacy," as Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 10-09. Here is the abstract.
The United States has gone through many waves of movie censorship, but one of the worst waves of all has been largely ignored and forgotten: In the summer of 1910, states and municipalities adopted bans on prizefight films in order to censor black supremacy. On the Fourth of July, 1910, the uncompromising black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, knocked out the “great white hope,” Jim Jeffries, in what was dubbed by the press and promoters as “the fight of the century.” Jeffries, a former heavyweight champion himself, returned to the ring after a five-year retirement to try to reclaim the heavyweight championship for the white race. He failed. The knock out that sent the great white hope down to the floor shook the nation, prompted deadly racial riots, and induced one of the most disturbing waves of movie censorship in American history. This Article brings to light the story of a national movement to censor black supremacy, a movement that had significant success. The Article is a tribute to Jack Johnson and should serve as a contemporary warning about the risks and threats of content regulation, with lessons to the controversy over “community standards” in the law of obscenity.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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