In the Game pp 47-92 | Cite as

In Sports the Best Man Wins

How Joe Louis Whupped Jim Crow
  • Theresa E. Runstedtler


On June 22, 1938, when Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, won a decisive, first-round knockout in his revenge match against Nazi-promoted Max Schmeling, white America embraced the black heavyweight champion as a national hero. Amid increasing reports of Hitler’s imperialistic aggression and persecution of the Jews, the mainstream white press highlighted the bout’s worldwide implications, claiming Louis’s triumph as an American victory in the larger fight against fascism. As Heywood Broun of the New York World-Telegram mused, “One hundred years from now some historian may theorize, in a footnote at least, that the decline of Nazi prestige began with the left hook of a former unskilled autoworker.”1 Inspiring more than just a mere footnote, Louis’s 1938 win expanded into a celebrated epic of American patriotism and democracy. Brimming with postwar confidence in 1947, Louis’s close friend, Frank Sinatra, declared: “If I were the government official responsible for the job of making the rest of the world understand our national character and the ideals that motivate us, I would certainly make use of the case history of Joe Louis.”2


Black Manhood Training Camp Black Athlete Racial Pride Race Riot 
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    Heywood Broun, New York World-Telegram, 1938,Google Scholar
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© Amy Bass 2005

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  • Theresa E. Runstedtler

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