The Great White Hope Essay, Research Paper
The Great White Hope
Hats off to Jack Jefferson! In 1908, he became the first black to fight for and win the heavyweight championship. He was a hero in much of the black community which viewed his defiance with tolerance and even pride. White America was not ready for Jack Jefferson. He dressed the way he wanted, talked up a storm and paraded his flashy and very much public affairs with white women.
Although I saw the movie, I found the play to be far more entertaining. The highly skilled actors made you feel as if you were actually in that era. I even felt the blatant racism, hatred and injustice that Jack was going through and for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin. The racial tension was so thick you could cut if with a knife.
The play was housed at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. What a theatre! It’s just an open space left at floor level in the middle of an auditorium. Depending upon the scene, the performance area would either be raised or lowered. You really had to use your imagination throughout the play. During the boxing scenes, you never saw Jack actually in the ring you only heard the noises, voices and yelling as if you were really at a boxing match. Another convention was when the baseball team came in and they switched clothes so Jack could escape. They were pretending to look out of a window but there really was no window at all. The actors did a wonderful job of remaining visible & speaking to the audience and projecting their voices so all 4 quadrants got an equal hearing.
The sound effects, lighting and costumes were realistic and evoked the mood and the atmosphere. In addition, they also reinforced the action of the play.
In summary, I think the director did an excellent job of showing racism and how white america was trying to beat the black man down. You could actually see and feel Jack Jefferson’s struggles. Even today, when people choose to look at and judge based on the external rather than the internal the result is injustice. Yes, there has been progress in this country, and yes there have been more open doors, but I think in some ways racism has just gone underground. I think the play really taps into that and forces us to face it.