What Is This “Black” in
Constantine is not a pure Negro, if that term has any meaning. Any West Indian who took one glimpse at his father would know that somewhere in his ancestry, and not too far back, there was European blood. The Constantines, however, were black people. Off the cricket field the family prestige would not be worth very much. Constantine was of royal ancestry in cricket, but in ordinary life, though not a pauper, he was no prince.
—C. L. R. James, Beyond a Boundary
The record shows that men with dark skin, wooly hair, broad noses and thick lips, can run, jump, hit, throw and think as well as those who have light skin, straight hair, narrow noses and thin lips, and that many men in each group are better animals, biologically, than many others in the contrasting group.
—Dr. W. Montague Cobb, “Physical Anthropology of the American Negro”
Tommie Smith first had to combat and denounce the prevailing myths of the black body, myths with roots that spanned almost a century. Early African American boxing champions illustrate the historical precedent for Smith's predicament. In 1910, when Jack Johnson battled Jim Jeffries—“the great white hope”—while the ringside band played “All Coons Look Alike to Me, ” it was, as historian Gail Bederman notes, “a national sensation.” 1 While he had refused to fight any black contenders during his own reign as champion, Jeffries yielded to national pressure and came out of retirement to bring the coveted title back