Jack Johnson was an athlete, inventor, and businessman. However, his most famous title as the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world still remains uncelebrated and unpardoned. Playwright and screenwriter Tommie Moore hopes to change this through his new play “Dare to be Black: The Jack Johnson Story.”
Playing at the local Delaware Theater company now through November 12, audience members are invited to get the “real story” behind the man who furiously fought against vicious racism that worked to taunt and unjustly convict him under the Mann Act in 1912 as Johnson traveled with his white girlfriend across state lines.
The show, written and acted by Moore, was inspired by the Queen’s native’s own fondness of the boxer whose story he discovered through a professor at Moore’s alma mater York College.
“My college professor Dr. Nickolich called me and told me she had a friend that was doing high schools as Harriet Tubman. So I met her friend and she said, ‘I know somebody great for you, Jack Johnson.’ So I did my research and wrote a 15 minute short for him,” Moore said.
The fifteen minute short eventually evolved into Moore’s 90 minute one-man show. A running time filled with thought provoking moments and entertaining anecdotes. Moore adds that his approach to writing the script was inspired by the 2003 film Bad Boys II. Explaining his inspiration Moore said:
“The concept as far as the writing in Bad Boys II was if the scene is not comedy, it was action. It was either or. I wanted to make sure every scene was exciting, so it keeps your attention.”
With the assistance of Delaware Theatre Company director Bud Martin, the story of Jack Johnson stands to be a reminder of America’s dark racial history while simultaneously being a story of triumph. Using archival footage, pictures and quotes from Jack Johnson; Moore conducted thorough research not only authenticity but respect for Johnson himself.
“He just wasn’t a guy who just knocked people out, he was a human being, and he was lovable and charming. When I wrote this play I wanted to make him lovable.”
The experienced actor, who has also worked in other off-Broadway shows and independent films hopes to take the Jack Johnson story to Broadway and additionally to the big screen. In pushing for the film and the play Moore hopes to bring recognition and a posthumous pardon to one of sports history’s unsung champions. The movement to pardon the boxer has most recently been attempted by Senators John McCain, Harry King and Representative Harry Meeks during the Obama administration with little success.
Living in the “now” as Moore states, he hopes the Jack Johnson story will help him create a legacy of his own and celebrating his recent success stating humbly.
“Bringing a one man show to a regional theatre, that’s a big deal!”
For more information: https://www.delawaretheatre.org/dare-to-be-black