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Products for Grant FB-52226-06

FB-52226-06
Joe Louis at the Crossroads of America
Marcy Sacks, Albion College

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FB-52226-06

Behind the Brown Mask: Joe Louis’s Face and the Construction of Racial Mythologies (Book Section)
Title: Behind the Brown Mask: Joe Louis’s Face and the Construction of Racial Mythologies
Author: Marcy Sacks
Editor: Michael Fuchs
Abstract: This essay examines the significance of the racially distinctive appropriations of Joe Louis’ image. The deadpan expression for which Louis became known provoked wild speculation about the man himself. More importantly, it allowed viewers to imprint their own interpretation of race onto the supposedly blank canvass of his face. White people assuaged their fears about a black man pummeling white men into the ropes by shaping Louis into a known, stereotypical black boy/man: a chicken-eating, lazy simpleton. They analyzed and unpacked his demeanor until they assured themselves that his blank face did not reflect anything sinister but instead, mindlessness.
Year: 2013
Publisher: Intellect, Ltd.
Book Title: ConFiguring America: Iconic Figures, Visuality, and the American Identity

Speaking Through Silence? Whites’ Efforts to Make Meaning of Joe Louis (Book Section)
Title: Speaking Through Silence? Whites’ Efforts to Make Meaning of Joe Louis
Author: Marcy Sacks
Editor: David Scott
Abstract: On the cusp of America's involvement in World War II, many white Americans embraced heavyweight boxer Joe Louis as a heroic and popular figure. In this article, Sacks argues that by doing so, whites could assert a triumphal message about race in the United States. Despite the deep entrenchment of Jim Crow segregation, celebrating a black man permitted whites to insist that neither race nor racism restricted black people from their aspirations. Louis's popularity offered the seed for a nascent paradigm of racial ideology that saw full germination in the neo-conservative movement of the 1980s and beyond.
Year: 2015
Publisher: Peter Lang
Book Title: Cultures of Boxing

Joe Louis and His Detroit Legacy (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Joe Louis and His Detroit Legacy
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: Commentary on the significance of boxer Joe Louis to the city of Detroit, from the 1930s and into present times.
Date: 11/5/2009
Conference Name: University of Detroit Mercy

Our Heroes are Not Our Equals: The Embrace of Joe Louis and America’s Racial Divide (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Our Heroes are Not Our Equals: The Embrace of Joe Louis and America’s Racial Divide
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: In the oft-told story of Joe Louis’s 1938 boxing match against the German fighter, Max Schmeling, the black Detroiter emerged as an American hero hailed by whites and blacks alike for his symbolic democratic victory over Nazism. Others before me have certainly noted the incongruity of Louis being employed as a symbol of American democracy when he, as a black man, suffered the injustices of Jim Crow inequality. In this paper, however, I argue that the common embrace of Louis as the nation’s standard-bearer in fact reinforced the racial schism evident in America. In an ironic twist, Louis’s fight against Schmeling provided white Americans with the ammunition with which they could claim U.S. superiority over fascism while permitting them to not actually improve conditions for black Americans. By hailing Louis as a hero, whites could lay claim to a racial liberalism that did not genuinely exist. But in their assertion of egalitarianism, “proven” by their acceptance of a black man as a hero, whites could avoid confronting the reality of racial injustice in America.
Date: 10/10/2008
Conference Name: Southern Historical Association

Imagining Race, Constructing Racism: Ascribing Meaning to Joe Louis’ ‘Deadpan.’ (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Imagining Race, Constructing Racism: Ascribing Meaning to Joe Louis’ ‘Deadpan.’
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: In her paper on memory and nostalgia, Sacks explores the appropriation of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis’ image by both blacks and whites. Both groups sought to exploit him in the promotion of their own racial fantasies. Hailed as a hero by whites and blacks alike, Sacks argues that the physical representation of him both in his boxing heyday and in contemporary times reflects the deep racial divide plaguing the United States.
Date: 3/29/2008
Conference Name: Organization of American Historians

’Behind the Brown Mask’: Inscribing Racial Fantasies on Joe Louis’s ‘Deadpan’ Expression. (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: ’Behind the Brown Mask’: Inscribing Racial Fantasies on Joe Louis’s ‘Deadpan’ Expression.
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: The late 1930s offered a propitious moment for the arrival of a black heroic figure on the American scene. With fascism on the rise in Europe and the world teetering on the brink of war, Americans’ increasingly vociferous condemnation of the Nazis’ racist creed smacked uncomfortably of hypocrisy. Gradually, beginning with academics and social progressives, Americans began to reexamine their own system of beliefs about racial hierarchy and even to challenge the precepts underlying Jim Crow segregation. Anxious to affirm the preeminence of democracy, particularly in the face of anti-discrimination protest emerging from the black population in the form of A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement and the black press’s “Double V” campaign, a growing constituency of white Americans became receptive to symbolic representations of racial tolerance. Joe Louis became their vehicle for doing so.
Date: 3/23/2007
Conference Name: Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, University of Michigan

Joe Louis and the Mythology of Racial Equality (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Joe Louis and the Mythology of Racial Equality
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: This paper examines the twentieth century evolution of the expression of racial inequality through the prism of Joe Louis’ experience as both a boxer and an icon. The study of sports in the United States offers a particularly effective mechanism for challenging the Whiggish assertion that race relations have been inexorably improving, with sports purportedly offering incontrovertible evidence of that trend. Americans’ desperate yearning to sound the death-knell of racial strife can be seen in the popularity of films such as Remember the Titans (2000) that depict sports as the altar on which racism has died. Joe Louis’ story exposes the fallacy of this contention. Despite Louis’ unprecedented popularity among whites, that fact never contravened pervasive assumptions about black inferiority. The interdictions on Louis’ behavior, the stereotyped portrayals of him during his reign as champion, and the modern-day appropriations of his image expose a persistent unwillingness to view Louis, or other black people, as full-fledged equals. As contemporary Americans continue to identify sports as evidence of the U.S.’s racial egalitarianism, Louis’ story suggests that this claim warrants reconsideration.
Date: 3/30/2007
Conference Name: Africana Studies Conference, Gettysburg College

Unmasking the ‘Deadpan’: The Search for the ‘Real’ Joe Louis (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Unmasking the ‘Deadpan’: The Search for the ‘Real’ Joe Louis
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: This talk highlights the research methodology and challenge for a study on a well-examined subject.
Date: 10/21/2008
Conference Name: Marilyn Crandell Schleg Memorial Lecture, Albion College

The Construction of Racial Mythologies: Joe Louis and the Fiction of American Progressiveness (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Construction of Racial Mythologies: Joe Louis and the Fiction of American Progressiveness
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: This paper examines the significance of the racially distinctive appropriations of Louis’ image. The deadpan expression for which Louis became known provoked wild speculation about the man himself. More importantly, it allowed viewers to imprint their own interpretation of race onto the supposedly blank canvass of his face. White people assuaged their fears about a black man pummeling white men into the ropes by shaping Louis into a known, stereotypical black boy/man: a chicken-eating, lazy simpleton. They analyzed and unpacked his demeanor until they assured themselves that his blank face did not reflect anything sinister but instead, mindlessness. Black people, on the other hand, celebrated Louis as an avenging messiah. They claimed to recognize in his impassive countenance the strategy of black people since slavery to hide their true selves from whites. Writers like Richard Wright and Langston Hughes insisted that Louis symbolized strength, power, resistance, and pride -- precisely those characteristics that so worried whites.
Date: 1/14/2011
Conference Name: Sport and Literature Conference, University of Rostock (Germany)

Speaking Through Silence: Making Meaning of Joe Louis (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Speaking Through Silence: Making Meaning of Joe Louis
Author: Marcy Sacks
Abstract: This paper examines the significance of the racially distinctive appropriations of Louis’ image, both historically and in contemporary times. The deadpan expression for which Louis became known provoked wild speculation about the man himself. Ultimately, disparate publics imprinted their own interpretation of race onto the supposedly blank canvass of his face. While white people assuaged their fears about a black man pummeling white men into the ropes by shaping Louis into a known, stereotypical black boy/man, black people celebrated Louis as an avenging messiah. They claimed to recognize in his impassive countenance the strategy of black people since slavery to hide their true selves from whites. More recently, Joe Louis’s name and image have been invoked in the construction of statues, the naming of sports venues (a hockey arena and a golf course), as the inspiration for an opera, and in explaining the significance of President Barack Obama’s election victory in 2008. As the United States continues to grapple with the pernicious question of race, Joe Louis’s inscrutability offers a malleable template for making a wide array of claims about America’s racial progressiveness.
Date: 7/7/2011
Conference Name: The Cultures of Boxing Symposium, Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland)


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