NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)– The man, who in many eyes was the first black international sports celebrity, is also the subject of a play.
Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1908.
Actor and playwright Tommie J. Moore has a one man show, “Dare To Be Black,” focusing on the boxer.
Johnson had three wives, all white. Then he was convicted of violating federal law.
“They said he was trafficking white women for prostitution over state lines, which he wasn’t,” Moore told WCBS 880’s Jane Tillman Irving.
Senators John McCain and Harry Reid and local congressmen Gregory Meeks and Peter King are leading the charge for a posthumous presidential pardon.
Moore slips it into his play just before the stage goes dark.
“He says ‘hold on, hold on. Pardon me, this may sound crazy, but maybe one day we’ll have a Negro president,’” Moore says, describing the closing scene.
“Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight world champion, was an African American before his time. He did things in the late 1800s through the early 1900s that some may consider suicidal… Although Johnson’s physical stature was threatening, his charm and storytelling made him lovable,” the synopsis reads.
You can see “Dare To Be Black: The Jack Johnson Story” at the Theater for the New City on the Lower East Side.