In no particular order, some items from the weekend papers:
In Reno this weekend, the locals are remembering the “fight of the century” in 1910 between the first African-American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, and the former champ, Jim Jeffries, who some saw as the “great white hope,” able to recapture the title.
Johnson won in 15 rounds on a blistering hot day and Jeffries, a great boxer in his day, is now remembered as the hope that faded away. Johnson was one of the great characters of American sport. He paved the way for many other athletes of color, as recounted in Geoffrey Ward’s fine book Unforgivable Blackness. The PBS film of the same name by Ken Burns is outstanding.
The effort to gain a presidential pardon for Johnson – John McCain is now on board – continues. Johnson was convicted of “white slavery” for allegedly transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.” His real crime was that he merely kept company with white women.
Finally, no one disparages more than I the lack of civility in our politics these days, but it is worth remembering on this 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that we’ve always – always – had a quarrelsome politics. It is the nature, perhaps, of the beast. A fine little essay by historian Sean Wilentz reminds us that Jefferson was vilified as “a snake in the grass” for his role in the Declaration and John Marshall, the future great Chief Justice, could hardly bring himself to give ol’ Tom credit for the first draft of that famous and essential paper.
The more things change, as they say.
Happy July 4th to you and, yes, I’ll raise a glass today to all the Founders. They didn’t get everything right, but they did their part. What a country!