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Boxing, Race and British Identity, 1945–1962
The Historical Journal, Volume: 63, Issue: 5, Pages: 1349 - 1377
Swansea University Author: Martin Johnes
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This article provides new insight into the study of race relations and British identity by exploring attitudes to black boxers in the post-war period. With a formal colour bar on British championships operating until 1948, boxing had long been a site where racial prejudice and discrimination were ar...
|Published in:||The Historical Journal|
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
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This article provides new insight into the study of race relations and British identity by exploring attitudes to black boxers in the post-war period. With a formal colour bar on British championships operating until 1948, boxing had long been a site where racial prejudice and discrimination were articulated and casually applied. But it was also a rare space where black men could be spoken about, discussed and celebrated without primary reference to their colour. This article argues that boxing reflected and contributed to the complex ways in which black people were received in British society. Small in number and generally not regarded as a threat to sport or wider society, British-born black boxers in the late 1940s were often accepted and celebrated. But as immigration increased during the 1950s and 1960s, and professional boxing declined as an industry, poor treatment and marginalisation became more common, especially for boxers from the Caribbean and West Africa. Above all, boxing highlights the ambivalence in racial attitudes that meant that even the most popular black fighters were rarely fully embraced as British heroes.
boxing, race, Britishness, national identity, racism, immigration
College of Arts and Humanities