Books: Pride and Prejudice

CHAMPION

In the '30s, sportswriters called him the Brown Bomber, the Dark Destroyer, the Sepia Slugger, the Mahogany Maimer, the Chocolate Chopper, the Tan Tarzan of Thump. These were far more than sobriquets. As Chris Mead observes in his enlightening biography, Champion, Heavyweight Joe Louis Barrow could never be a mere titleholder. He was always an emblem.

To black America, and to unbiased whites, Joe Louis symbolized the victory of poverty over circumstance. The prejudiced regarded him as an anthropoid in trunks. Before his first match with German Boxer Max Schmeling in 1936, a Nazi journalist wrote, "It is hoped that the...

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