John Arthur "Jack" Johnson, known as the Galveston Giant was an American boxer who became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion at the height of the Jim Crow era.
Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1878, the first son and third child of nine children, to two former slaves, Henry and Tina "Tiny" Johnson. Johnson's parents worked as a janitor and a dishwasher to support their children and put them through school.
In 1908 Jack Johnson became the first African-American to win the world heavyweight crown. Johnson knocked out the reigning champ, Tommy Burns. The more well known Johnson became, the bigger target he became for the whites who wanted to see him ruined. As Johnson became a bigger name in the sport of boxing, he also became a bigger target for a white America that longed to see him ruined. For his part, Johnson loved to flaunt his wealth and intentionally disregarded racial rules. He was convicted and sentenced to prison for violating the Mann Act, which was to address prostitution, "immorality", and human trafficking, for bringing his white girlfriend across state lines before their marriage in 1912. He fled to Europe for seven years, but eventually returned to the United States in 1920 and served his sentence.
Johnson held on to the title until 1915 and continued to box until he was 50. He died in an automobile accident in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1946.
Since his death, Johnson's alleged crimes are now seen as the result of racial bias in law enforcement. In 1990 Johnson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and his life was the subject of the Ken Burns’ documentary Unforgivable Blackness.