A graduate student and professor have won a national journalism award for their research examining how print media covered various anniversaries of the 1910 “Fight of the Century.”
Doctoral candidate Jodi Rightler-McDaniels and Professor Amber Roessner, both of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, won the J. William Snorgrass Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Paper on a Minorities Topic from the American Journalism Historians Association in New Orleans.
Their paper was entitled “Beyond Celebration [but] Worth Remembering: Anniversary Coverage Surrounding Jack Johnson and the ‘Fight of the Century.'”
The study examined print media coverage surrounding the twenty-fifth, fiftieth, seventy-fifth and hundredth anniversaries of the July 1910 heavyweight boxing match between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries. Not a single article found analyzed the significance of this fight to race-based tensions.
John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was an African-American boxer at the height of the Jim Crow era. He became the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. In 1910, former undefeated heavyweight champion James Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge Johnson. Johnson gave Jeffries his first defeat by ending the fight in the fifteenth round.
“Coverage during the fiftieth and seventy-fifth anniversary dates provided scant articles, suggesting cultural amnesia,” said Rightler-McDaniels. “The 100th anniversary coverage did place the fight in the context of its historical frame, but still failed to consider why it was important to remember America’s legacy of racism. Instead, the 100th anniversary coverage seemed to shift the blame of racism onto Johnson himself.”
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