An Exception to the Rules | Bleader

An Exception to the Rules


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Aberdeen [South Dakota] Daily News, December 14, 1912 Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight world boxing champ and the inspiration for the phrase "The Great White Hope." The latter was coined by novelist Jack London and was subsequently attached by promoters and journalists to a long string of Caucasian palookas doomed to kiss the canvas after stepping into the ring with Johnson. The fact that he was rich, famous, physically indominable and totally fearless enabled Johnson to pretty much do as he liked, white supremacy be damned.

That included marrying three white women, of whom Lucille Cameron was the second. Like just about everything Johnson said or did, his marriages set off racial shockwaves around the country. In Chicago, for example, his marriage to Lucille apparently led to a police crackdown on the dreaded racial "intermingling." The stipulation that two of the women were "pretty" in the bargain is a nice period touch.