The Great White Hope (1970) - PG-13
Long before Cassius Clay, there was Jack Johnson. Long before Ali, there was The Great White Hope. Starring James Earl Jones in his first lead role in a film, the film focuses on the life of boxer Jack Jefferson in the early part of the 20th Century (based on the life of real boxer Jack Johnson). He is the first black heavy weight champ, so he's constantly confronted with the racism and hatred of early and mid-century white America. To make matters even more difficult he is also in love with a white woman. As a result, Jefferson must not only deal with the hatred of whites, he must also deal with the ostracism of some members of the black community who feel he has sold out. The title refers to the parade of white boxers who offer hope of retaking the title from Jefferson.
Questions for reflections and/or discussion:
- What does the title mean?
- Why do you think Jack Jefferson's character is unpopular among some of the African American characters?
- The boxing ring is the one place where Jack Jefferson is in complete control of what he does and what he can do. How does this differ from his world outside of the ring?