Jack Johnson at Auto Race | Photograph | Wisconsin Historical Society


Jack Johnson at Auto Race

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African American heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, drove up to Milwaukee from his home in Chicago to watch the Vanderbilt Cup race on October 2, 1912. A number of unidentified people are gathered around him as he and another man (both wearing goggles) lean against a car (probably Johnson's).


Image ID: 38376

Creation Date: 1912-10-02 

Creator Name: Taylor, J. Robert

City: West Allis

County: Milwaukee

State: Wisconsin

Collection Name: Taylor, J. Robert : Photographs, 1898 - 1930

Genre: Photograph

Original Format Type: photographic print, b&w

Original Format Number: PH 2677

Original Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.5 inches


A brief note about the October 2 race appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on 3 Oct 1912: "JACK JOHNSON IS AUTO BUG - Jack Johnson, champion heavyweight of the world, was a visitor in the city yesterday, driving up here in a powerful racing car and taking in the races. Johnson was given a reception when recognized by the crowd in the stands. Johnson looks quite heavy now, but he claims to be in fair shape. He appears to weigh in the neighborhood of 250 pounds. The champion will remain over for today's races, but expects to return to Chicago tonight." The American Grand Prize (later called the Grand Prix) was also held in Milwaukee, on October 5th. Additional context from Geoffrey C. Ward, author of Johnson's 2004 biography "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson": Despite Johnson's evident good cheer, his world was crumbling around him. His first wife had died less than three weeks earlier. Two days later, the police would sweep through the Levee [in Chicago] and arrest several of his friends, including the saloon- and brothel-keeper Roy Jones. (The man with the goggles fits Jones' description and they often traveled together in the Chicago area, but I can't be sure.) The day before the picture was taken, a driver was killed [David Bruce-Brown]. Johnson and friends presumably saw Ralph De Palma win the race on the second [of October]. Johnson was still in Milwaukee on October 7. On October 17, Mrs. F. Cameron-Falconet, the Milwaukee woman who accused Johnson of seducing her daughter, Lucille, went to the Chicago police and lodged the case that led to his flight and exile [to Europe].


African Americans

Automobile racing

Boxers (Sports)


Clothing and dress




Protective clothing



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