"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joe Louis

This 1946 portrait of Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981) by Betsy Graves Reyneau hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
“American boxing great Joe Louis began his pro career in 1934 and quickly eliminated a series of opponents with his devastating knockout punch. Widely expected to take the 1936 heavyweight title, Louis was stunned by his defeat at the hands of German champion Max Schmeling. When he reentered the ring against Schmeling in 1938, far more was at stake than a world heavyweight crown. Schmeling came to the contest as Adolf Hitler's champion of Aryan supremacy, while Louis, the first African American boxer to win the enthusiastic support of black and white Americans alike, was embraced as democracy's standardbearer. Louis struck like lightning when the fight began. Staggering Schmeling with a sequence of tremendous blows, Louis took only 124 seconds to claim one of the sweetest victories in boxing history. As reporter Heywood Broun rightly observed, Louis had ‘exploded the Nordic myth with a boxing glove.’”

Charles Henry Alston portrayed Sgt. Joe Louis in a WWII propaganda poster.

Sgt. Joe Louis
Champion of Champions

That poster image was based, it would appear, on this 1936 photo entitled “Uncrowned Champion.” (LOC

If the photo above was taken on June 8, 1936 as the Library of Congress suggests, it was taken just before the first Joe Louis--Max Schmeling fight on June 19, in which Schmeling beat Louis by a knockout. Langston Hughes wrote in his autobiography I Wonder as I Wander that:
[W]hen Joe Louis had lost his first fight to Schmeling in Harlem, I had been a part of the hush and the sadness that fell over darker New York. After the fight, which I attended, I walked down Seventh Avenue and saw grown men weeping like children, and women sitting on the curbs with their heads in their hands. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried. 

Pvt. Joe Louis says_
We're going to do our part ... and we'll win because we're  on God's side”

When Joe Louis died in 1981 he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors. Ronald Reagan waved the requirements for burial at Arlington. The pictures below of Joe Louis' grave are extracted from a Carrol Highsmith photo.

The Brown Bomber
World Heavyweight Champion

 1937-1949 are not his birth and death dates but the years he was World Heavyweight Champion.

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