After defeating James J. Jeffries in original “Fight of the Century” in 1910, Jack Johnson became a cultural icon in mainstream America.
After marrying a woman who was white, Johnson opened a desegregated nightclub, making him a target of the conservative establishment of the time.
Seizing on his playboy lifestyle, authorities arrested Johnson on charges of violating the Mann Act, a convenient tactic of the US government looking to destroy a controversial figure’s reputation. (See Chuck Berry, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Lloyd Wright).
With the pressures of his complicate life and cultural significance catching up with him, and accusations of domestic violence, Johnson fled the United States and continued boxing.
By 1920, he was apprehended and served a year long sentence in Leavenworth federal penitentiary.
Upon release, Johnson continued to participate in paid exhibition matches and was highly sought for celebrity endorsements through the 1940s.
Taken before his time, Jack Johnson died in car accident in 1946, having lived a full life, though perhaps cut short too soon, at the age of 68.