Holds Your Attention From Start To Finish!!---The Definitive
MUZIK4THAPEOPLE!! | Seattle & San Diego | 11/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a fan of Ken Burns work since his revolutionary documentary series
"The Civil War" and owning that series on DVD as well as "Baseball", "Jazz",
"Mark Twain", "The War" and his brother Ric Burns' riveting series on the history
of New York City, I was very interested to hear back in 2004, that he was working
on a series chronicling the life & times of the long forgotten defiant, courageous
and always controversial first african-american heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson.
The two nights that this series aired on PBS, I found myself glued in my seat in
amazement as I watched Jack Johnson's story being brought to life in vivid detail!
Ken Burns always uses a great synergy of visuals (picture stills and archival footage),
music (from Ragtime to Jazz to Spirituals), and brilliant narrations by various actors
and actresses to bring his subjects vividly, and in some cases, painfully to life!
Jack Johnson was an anomoly of his times to say the least...
The son of former slaves from Galveston, TX who was born in the late 1870's.
He was a very articulate, proud, strong, defiant, confident black man in a time when
that alone could get you killed for sure!
The climate of racism was so virulent back in his times that blacks couldn't
even look a white person (man or woman) in the eyes or walk on the same sidewalk
as they walked by, for fear of it being percieved as uppityness or defiance to the
strict Jim Crow social order of white supremacy!
Burns uses actual writings of prominent white figures of the times who express
the most ugly hate-filled racial tirades right out in the open and nobody thought
it to be reprehensible or offensive in the least!
It was just the general consensus of the times. He also uses cartoons published
in newspapers of the times along with printed articles to paint a picture of how it was
in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Jack Johnson's story unfurls.
Blacks were being lynched and burned left and right all over the country weekly in
untold numbers and nothing was being done about it by the laws or any other
institutions of the day. Blacks were considered one the same level as animals.
Enter into this suffocating stew of racial hatred, a tall, athletic, well-built,
bald-headed, gold-tooth-wearing black man out of Texas who was good with his fists
and equally adept at expressing his mind verbally!
He dressed to the nines in the high fashion of the times, drove the newly invented
automobiles like a bat out of hell, looked any white man or woman in the eye when
he addressed them, and most unbelievable and offensive to white sensibilities of the times,
he had the nerve to date, embibe, carouse and even MARRY white women who were beuatiful
and desirable to white men!---In other words, Jack Johnson was a full on SPORTIN' MAN,
who did & said just what he wanted without any fear of white retribution!
He was like an alien lifeform to both whites (who reveiled him and yet were
strangely intigued & amazed by his nerve!) and submissive blacks who lived their
whole lives in fear and had been beaten down in their spirits by the system of the times,
who saw Johnson as a loud, obnoxious, selfish peacock and a troublemaker who brought
down the wrath of the whites on them! You either loved Jack or hated him!--No middleground.
And he didn't much care which!--So Jack Johnson was man who stood alone, which was
both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
I could go on and on about the brilliance of this documentary and the unprecented
details and dynamic highs and lows of Jack Johnson's journey, but I wouldn't want
to spoil the experience for those who haven't seen it yet!
Bottomline, this is stellar documentary work and one of Ken Burns' best ones so far!
If you don't have it already, get it, because this will be an enriching and educational
addition to your DVD collection for you, your children and grandchildren to enjoy,
irregardless of race or socio-economic background.
This is TRULY an American Story!"