Image: 37.2 x 48 cm (14 5/8 x 18 7/8 in.)
Gift of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1936.644
Catalogue raisonné: Mason 96
After Jack Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight champion in 1908, a series of boxing promoters searched for a “Great White Hope” who could dethrone him. Analyzing the facial features of the two fighters in this print, some scholars believe its subject commemorates Johnson’s victory over former champion James J. Jeffries in 1910. The outcome of this proclaimed “fight of the century” sparked racially motivated riots in more than 50 cities across 25 states, leaving 20 people dead. Whether or not The White Hope can be associated with a specific bout, Bellows’s image undercuts notions of white racial superiority with bitter irony.
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