The Other Jack Johnson Story

Well, it wasn't in the first two hour part of the Ken Burns documentary, but there's a story about Jack Johnson, driven out of the USA by the fury of J. Edgar Hoover's closet-case terror. (Hoover believed interracial love was a sexual perversion -- same reason he hounded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) There are precious few positive aspects to racial prejudice, but perhaps this side effect was one.

The story goes, as told by Leadbelly in a song (but not the version he sang for white audiences), Mr. Johnson had a pair of First Class tickets aboard the Titanic, got to the dock, and some nasty little purser refused to let him travel First Class saying, "This ship don't carry no coal."

The image of that nasty little white boy thinking about Johnson as he sank, glub, glub, glub, beneath the freezing water is quite amusing and satisfying, and I still think, wherever Johnson is, he's still laughing -- about everything, but especially about that.


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