Joe Louis: Culture Hero in African-America, 1934-1944
Priscilla Anne Dowden
William E. Cross, Jr.
Thesis DT 3.5 1987 D745
viii, 148 leaves; 29 cm.
This study examines African-American identification, from 1934-1944, with Joe Louis, the second Black heavy weight boxing champion of the world. It contends that Joe Louis' influence on African America extended beyond the masses, cutting across socio-cultural class lines. He is, viewed, therefore, as a cultural hero, weaving together a variety of cultural elements.
This thesis holds that Joe Louis represented the perfect expression of popular culture. He bolstered African-American morale during a critical moment in their history-the Great Depression. In Louis, African-Americans found a new source of strength enabling them to continue their struggle toward democratizing the country of their birth. Likewise, they discovered, in Louis, another vehicle through which their socio-cultural concerns could be conveyed to the dominant culture. His popular appeal and influence on African -Americans is illustrated in a number of sources, including oral narratives, literature, music, and newspapers. Relying heavily on these sources, and interviews with key observers of this period, this study examines the most salient stages in Joe Louis' journey as a cultural hero in African-America.
Joe Louis achieved his initial heroic status in the African-American community with his victory over the Italian Primo Carnera on June 25, 1935. Due to their condemnation of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, African-Americans attached an immense amount of significance to this fight. This would not be the only fight taking on symbolic connotations. All of Joe Louis' fights would hold special meanings for African-Americans. The first and second Louis-Schmeling fights, in particular, significantly tested Louis' heroic stature within African-America. Likewise, his entry into the second World War presented, yet, another challenge. However, Joe Louis had become permanently embedded in the collective consciousness of African-Americans well before World War II.