Though story and production details are still to be determined, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks is working with Emmy-winning filmmaker Ken Burns for a miniseries on Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion.
The HBO miniseries will be told in four to six parts and will be based on the book “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” — the same book Burns adapted into his Emmy-winning PBS documentary of the same name.
At its core this will be a look at race relations of that era.
Jack Johnson’s knockout of Tommy Burns in 1908 gave him the heavyweight championship but sparked outrage among sportswriters — led by Jack London — who called for a “Great White Hope” to take back the championship.
Eventually, public pressure prompted James Jeffries, the heavyweight champion from 1899 to 1905 who had retired undefeated, to come out of retirement and face Johnson.
The Johnson-Jeffries fight, billed “The Fight of the Century,” was held on July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nevada.
Johnson won the fight, knocking out Jeffries in the 15th round to retain his title. His victory sparked race riots around the country and captivated the world.
Hanks has been involved in numerous miniseries for HBO, including “From the Earth to the Moon,” “Band of Brothers,” and “The Pacific.”