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Joe Louis Biography

Growing Up, The Amateur Years, Turning Pro, Chronology, The Brown Bomber, Awards And AccomplishmentsSELECTED WRITINGS BY LOUIS:


American boxer

In his day, heavyweight champion Joe Louis was the most famous black man in America, virtually the only one who regularly appeared in the white newspapers. By breaking the color barrier that had been imposed on boxing after black heavyweight Jack Johnson outraged white sensibilities, Joe Louis began a process that would eventually open all of big-league sports to black athletes. Throughout his unprecedented twelve-year reign as world heavyweight champion, Louis projected a power inside the ring and a quiet dignity outside of it that would transform him from a black hero, obsessively identified in the white media with his race and alleged "savagery," into a national hero, and ultimately a sports icon. His later years were difficult, marked by financial worries and bouts with mental illness, but when he died, millions mourned his passing. As Muhammad Ali put it, "Everybody cried."


(With Edna and Art Rust, Jr.) Joe Louis: My Life, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Sketch by Robert Winters

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Famous Sports StarsBoxing