When Jack Johnson Fought In New Mexico

Jun 19, 2020

  Two years after he defeated the so-called “Great White Hope,” legendary boxer Jack Johnson fought another white challenger determined to topple him as heavyweight champion of the world. It took place on July 4, 1912 in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and is the subject of the book “Crazy Fourth: How Jack Johnson Kept His Title and Put Las Vegas New Mexico on the Map,”  just published by University of New Mexico Press.

On this month’s show, the author and former Albuquerque Journal sportswriter Toby Smith talks about the fight, the ongoing racism faced by Johnson and how New Mexico ended up hosting the bout.


Also on the show, we hear from Ashleigh Abbot. She’s a student, a parent and an artist who wanted to create a project to inspire joy and whimsy during this difficult year of pandemic lockdowns, economic crash and racial justice protests. Brillo the Giant Snail was inspired by a massive street puppet performance in London that went on for days. 


Brillo the Giant Snail
Credit Ashleigh Abbott

The shiny and colorful snail has been popping up in neighborhoods around Albuquerque following the trail of rainbows people put up in their windows. Abbott's project is a finalist in the international BioDesign Challenge.

Additional resources

"Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall Of Jack Johnson" - PBS documentary by Ken Burns

Trump Pardons Jack Johnson, Heavyweight Boxing Champion - New York Times

Why Trump Could Pardon Jack Johnson When Obama Wouldn't - New York Review of Books

Brillo the Giant Snail website

"The Sultan's Elephant" by Royal Deluxe - YouTube

"Public Art That Turns Cities Into Playgrounds Of The Imagination" - TED Talk by Helen Marriage about the creation of "The Sultan's Elephant."

How rainbows are helping people across the world get through social distancing - Deseret News