Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Big Smoke: Reflections


[The Big Smoke reading group]

We've covered a range of issues -- history, boxing, race relations, anti-black racism, verbal skills and eloquence, domestic violence, and motivation -- while covering Adrian Matejka's volume of poetry The Big Smoke this semester. We've admired and disliked Jack Johnson along the way. We shook our heads at the troubling circumstances black people encountered during the early 20th century and how some of those circumstances resonate today.

But, of the various issues, including and beyond those mentioned above that you've covered while reading, what did you find most noteworthy or important concerning The Big Smoke? Why or how so?  

18 comments:

Barry Ford said...

The most noteworthy issue in "The Big Smoke" was anti-black racism. Throughout the book, there were several instances of anti-black racism, whether it was in the boxing ring or out. Many of his actions were also fueled through or in response to anything directed towards him that was anti-black racism.

Anonymous said...

The most noteworthy about Big Smoke was the fact that it was about a black boxer who many thought was not educated, yet he used his smarts to overcome all the racial slurs, actions, and white boxers.



Ricky Wells

Ricky Wells said...

The most noteworthy about Big Smoke is that its about a black boxer who most think as little to no education, yet he overcame racial slurs, racial actions, and white boxers.

Evan Townzen said...

I thought the most noteworthy section was either the letters from Hattie to Belle or the actual boxing match between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries. The former showed that Jack had major issues within, but the latter shows his levels of self control and quick wits. Overall, The most important topic was the racism that was prevalent throughout. While unintentional sometimes, as with the letters, the whole crowd almost was against Jack Johnson. It shows that things can get better even though they are good yet.

MyVampire15 said...

I would say that the most noteworthy thing that I saw in "The Big Smoke", was how well Jack Johnson shrugged the racism off his shoulders. Some black men of today would not have taken such language lightly, but Jack Johnson proved to the white people that blacks can be more than what they think.

Emmanuel Green

Nicholas Rawls said...

For me personally, I've had my eyes on more than just Johnson himself and how much he's learned, but how much development as gone by. The most underdeveloped form of boxing would be prize-fighting. At this stage, there are no forms to fighting, much like two animals duking it out. Yet, now Johnson stands as champion, with black and white boxers alike trying to challenge him. It's surprising to see how much evolution that history, Johnson, and boxing has gone by. As much as not much racism is evident later on, there are still small glimpses of it...
-Nicholas Rawls

Joey N. said...

The most noteworthy aspect about "The Big Smoke" was the fact through boxing the main character overcome the daily struggles of life.

John Kriha said...

What I found most noteworthy in Matejka's "The Big Smoke" was how the main character was fighting both literally and socially as a black athlete. Instead of letting racism get to him he used it to his advantage while in the ring. Overall, the character of Johnson is influential because he sends a message that what people think of you shouldn't dictate whether or not you fail or succeed.

Robert F said...

What was noteworthy to me is how this book represents how people view successful black people. Many see minorities as subordinates, when we should be viewed as equals. Jack Johnson swam against the tide the entire book proving again and again that he was equal (often better) than his white counter-part. Many situations he dealt with in this book, is still experienced today. That's why "The Big Smoke" is noteworthy to me.

Rubin Logan said...

The noteworthy thing about "The Big Smoke"was how he fought through everything not only with his hands and mouth but his "never fail" mentality allowed him to not be hurt by racial slurs and anybody that tried to put him down.

Jeremiah Blackburn said...

I think the most noteworthy issue had to deal with the race relations throughout the book. Adrian Matejka does an excellent job of showing how Jack Johnson interacted around people his own race and people from other races. Many black males today can still relate to some of the interactions Johnson went through back then because they are still prevalent.

Deandre Howard said...

The most noteworthy issue in the book for me assumptions and misconceptions. Throughout the book, you see many examples of blacks sterotypes that each have a no basis in reality and times when Johnson was perceived as "less than" or himself having misconceptions about others such as the shorter prize fighter he fought.

-DeAndre H.

Jelani Brown said...

I think the most noteworthy thing was that the boxer overcame his own ignorance slowly throughout the book.

Trion T. said...

The most noteworthy issue was about how everyone saw Jack Johnson. I found it extremely satisfying that all the things they told Jack he couldn't do, he did more than. All the trash talking before and during the match was hilarious because he just simply ignored them, and then when he showed them up, he'd call them on it. It was truly amazing when people still had stuff to say even after he had won a match by a landslide. Despite how overconfident Johnson was, I was truly happy to see him succeed through all of his trials and tribulations.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Reincke said...

I felt the major underlying message from "The Big Smoke" was the extreme anti-black racism that individuals dealt with and were able to overcome it. For example, not many people thought Jack Johnson was going to become the Heavyweight champion simply because of his race. He proved the world wrong, along with his opponent that race does not matter in boxing, nor should it in any other aspect of life. All men are created equal, therefore it should not matter what the color of your skin is, but rather the quality of one's character.

Jordan Hardman said...

The most noteworthy to me was the fact that this unknown black boxer became one of the greats. He was denied everything but he still fought through all the barriers he was faced with. Everything was set up for him to fail but he beat the system to prevail.

Jordan H

Nicholas M. said...

The most noteworthy issue in "The Big Smoke" was overcoming adversity. Jack Johnson had to fight back against the anti-black racism.

Quentin Wilson said...

I feel the most noteworthy issue was racism and how it often stopped him from having a better career than he should.