ABSOLUTELY MUST SEE DOCUMENTARY
In this vivid biography Geoffrey C. Ward brings back to life the most celebrated — and the most reviled — African American of his age.
Jack Johnson was the first African American Heavyweight Champion of the World. His dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century. Enter the ring in Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson a must see documentary for any boxing fan
Jack Johnson battled his way out of obscurity and poverty in the Jim Crow South to win the title of heavyweight champion of the world. At a time when whites ran everything in America, he took orders from no one and resolved to live as if color did not exist. While most blacks struggled simply to exist, he reveled in his riches and his fame, sleeping with whomever he pleased, to the consternation and anger of much of white America. Because of this the federal government set out to destroy him, and he was forced to endure prison and seven years of exile. This definitive biography portrays Jack Johnson as he really was–a battler against the bigotry of his era and the embodiment of American individualism.
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Geoffrey C. Ward (2004). In Burns’ signature style the 220-minute film serves as a biography of Jack Johnson, as well as a documentary of racism and social inequality during the Jim Crow era against which Jack Johnson lived in defiant opposition.
The documentary was first broadcast on PBS in two parts on January 17 and January 18, 2005. The film is narrated by Keith David and features a soundtrack by Wynton Marsalis and Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Jack Johnson. Alan Rickman also contributed his voice to the documentary. Stanley Crouch appears offering commentary, including a quote from Johnson responding to a question from a white woman about black people, “We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts.”
This documentary is an example of a type frequently used by Burns, namely authority contributions, where a range of authorities give voiceovers to contribute particular details. Stanley Crouch is the star authority, whose personal recollections, storytelling ability, and frequent appearance, lend an air of intimacy and detail.
In 2005, the film earned Ken Burns an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming and won for Outstanding Nonfiction Special. Geoffrey C. Ward won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. Keith David won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.
The film was produced by David Schaye, Paul Barnes and Ken Burns (Executive Producer) for Florentine Films.