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When Jack Johnson Fought In New Mexico

  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. 


Credit Ashleigh Abbott
Brillo the Giant Snail

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

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.
Related Content
  • Democratic Senators Harry Reid and Mo Cowan have joined Republicans John McCain and Representative Peter King to call for the pardon of former heavyweight boxing champ Jack Johnson. He was the first black fighter to win that title, in 1908. Another win in 1910 sparked race riots nationwide, and his relationships with white women only added to the controversy. He was convicted of taking women across state lines for "immoral purpose." Audie Cornish has more.
  • The black world heavyweight champion was convicted of a crime in 1913 for traveling with a white girlfriend. President Trump issued a rare posthumous pardon after an appeal from Sylvester Stallone.