ASU presents Ernie Hudson as heavyweight champ Jack Johnson
As part of its Black History Month activities, Adams State University will present Ernie Hudson in the one-man play Ghost in the House. Hudson will portray Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion, as he reminisces about his life and the issues he dealt with in his boxing career.
Best known for his roles in Ghostbusters films, Hudson has also appeared in The Crow, Congo, Miss Congeniality II. His many television credits include Modern Family, Law & Order, HBO's Oz, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Directed by Frank Megna, Ghost in the House deals with sports and racism in the early 1900s. Hudson is very excited to play Jack Johnson, because his story is a lesson about racism, culture, and overcoming adversity. It shows how far America has come in accepting diversity.
Two performances will be held in the Adams State Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 2: a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. The matinee will be followed with a Talk-Back discussion session with Hudson and Megna. Evening show audience members may meet Hudson at an informal reception following the performance.
Ticket prices are $5 for AS&F members, $10 for the general public. Tickets will be available beginning Jan. 22 and may be reserved by calling the ASU Theatre Box Office at (719) 587-8499. The show is recommended for teens and adults, as some language is not suitable for younger children. Adams State's presentation is in association with Opening Minds Productions.
Johnson was articulate and smart, something not expected from a black man in the early 1900s. In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns stated: "For more than 13 years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and most notorious African-American on Earth ... Johnson in many ways is an embodiment of the African-American struggle to be truly free in this country - economically, socially, and politically. He absolutely refused to play by the rules set by the white establishment, or even those of the black community. In that sense, he fought for freedom, not just as a black man, but as an individual."
In 1908, Jack Johnson defeated Tommy Burns to become the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. During a time of deep racial unrest, whites called for a "Great White Hope" - a white boxer who could beat Johnson. Former champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement to attempt that, but lost. Riots erupted across the country, injuring hundreds and resulting in the death of 23 blacks and 2 whites. Police interrupted several attempted lynchings.
Johnson's victory helped black athletes gain entrance into sports and change perceptions of black people. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954 and is on the roster of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
By Julie Waechter