Name: LOUIS, JOE ORIGINAL PHOTO (1942-IN ARMY)
History: Joe Louis was born on May 13, 1914 in Lafayette, Alabama. On June 22, 1937 he won the World Heavyweight Title from James J. Braddock. He retired after losing to Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951. His final record was 63-3. Joe Louis was also an important figure during World War II. Louis fought a charity bout for the Navy Relief Society against his former opponent Buddy Baer on January 9, 1942, which generated $47,000 for the fund. The next day, he volunteered to enlist as a private in the United States Army at Camp Upton, Long Island. Newsreel cameras recorded his induction, including a staged scene in which a soldier-clerk asked, "What's your occupation?" and Louis replied in a nervous rush, "Fighting and let us at them Japs." Another military charity bout on March 27, 1942, (against another former opponent, Abe Simon) netted $36,146. Before the fight, Louis had spoken at a Relief Fund dinner, saying of the war effort: "We'll win, 'cause we're on God's side." The media widely reported the comment, instigating a surge of popularity for Louis. Slowly, the press would begin to eliminate its stereotypical racial references when covering Louis, and instead treat him as an unqualified sports hero. Despite the public relations boon, Louis's charitable fights would prove financially costly. Although Louis saw none of the roughly $90,000 raised by these and other charitable fights, the IRS would later credit these amounts as taxable income paid to Louis. After the war, the IRS would pursue the issue. For basic training, Louis was assigned to a segregated cavalry unit based in Fort Riley, Kansas. The assignment was at the suggestion of his friend and lawyer Truman Gibson, who knew of Louis's love for horsemanship. Gibson had previously become a civilian advisor to the War Department, in charge of investigating claims of harassment against black soldiers. Accordingly, Louis used this personal connection to help the cause of various black soldiers with whom he came in to contact. In one noted episode, Louis contacted Gibson in order to facilitate the Officer Candidate School (OCS) applications of a group of African Americans at Fort Riley, which had been inexplicably delayed for several months. Among the OCS applications Louis facilitated turned out to be that of a young Jackie Robinson, later to break the baseball color barrier. The episode would spawn a personal friendship between the two men. Realizing Louis's potential for elevating esprit de corps among the troops, the Army placed him in its Special Services Division rather than deploying him into combat. Louis would go on a celebrity tour with other notables including fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Louis traveled more than 21,000 miles and staged 96 boxing exhibitions before two million soldiers. In England during 1944, he was reported to have enlisted as a player for Liverpool Football Club as a publicity stunt. In addition to his travels, Louis was the focus of a media recruitment campaign encouraging African-American men to enlist in the Armed Services, despite the military's racial segregation. When asked about his decision to enter the racially-segregated U.S. Army, Louis' explanation was simple: "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them." In 1943, Louis made an appearance in the wartime Hollywood musical This Is the Army, directed by Michael Curtiz. Louis appears as himself in a musical number, "The Well-Dressed Man In Harlem," which emphasizes the importance of African-American soldiers and promotes their enlistment. Louis's celebrity power was not, however, merely directed toward African Americans. In a famous wartime recruitment slogan, Louis echoed his prior comments of 1942: "We'll win, because we're on God's side." The publicity of the campaign made Louis widely popular stateside, even outside the world of sports. Never before had white Americans embraced a black man as their representative to the world. Although Louis never saw combat, his military service would see challenges of its own. During his travels he would often experience blatant racism. On one occasion, a military policeman (MP) ordered Louis and Ray Robinson to move their seats to a bench in the rear of an Alabama Army camp bus depot. "We ain't moving," said Louis. The MP tried to arrest them, but Louis forcefully argued the pair out of the situation. In another incident, Louis allegedly had to resort to bribery to persuade a commanding officer to drop charges against Jackie Robinson for punching a captain who had called Robinson a "nigger". Louis was eventually promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for "incalculable contribution to the general morale." Receipt of the honor qualified Louis for immediate release from military service on October 1, 1945. Offered here is an original, first generation photo dated October 14, 1942 depicting Joe Louis exercising with other African American soldiers at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Full description: This is an original, first generation photograph. Date stamped on back. Small crease in lower left and upper right corners. Bold, clear image. Clean front and back. Minor corner wear. 8 1/8" x 10."
Size: 8 1/8 x 10
Categories: Louis, Joe - Photograph -
Condition: very good
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