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Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

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Duration  
Language  English
Director  Ken Burns
Country  United States
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson movie poster

Release date  January 17, 2005

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Geoffrey C. Ward (2004). In Burns' signature style the 220-minute film serves as a biography of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, as well as a documentary of racism and social inequality during the Jim Crow era against which Jack Johnson lived in defiant opposition.

The documentary was first broadcast on PBS in two parts on January 17 and January 18, 2005. The film is narrated by Keith David and features a soundtrack by Wynton Marsalis and Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Jack Johnson. Alan Rickman also contributed his voice to the documentary. Stanley Crouch appears offering commentary, including a quote from Johnson responding to a question from a white woman about black people, "We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts."

This documentary is an example of a type frequently used by Burns, namely authority contributions, where a range of authorities give voiceovers to contribute particular details. Stanley Crouch is the star authority, whose personal recollections, storytelling ability, and frequent appearance, lend an air of intimacy and detail.

In 2005, the film earned Burns an Emmy Award for Directing for Non-Fiction Programming. David won an Emmy for Best Voice Over Performance.

The film was produced by David Schaye, Paul Barnes and Ken Burns (Executive Producer) for Florentine Films.

References

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson Wikipedia