Last On His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century (Hardcover)
A groundbreaking graphic portrait of boxing legend Jack Johnson, Last On His Feet offers a front-row seat to the Battle of the Century.
On the morning of July 4, 1910, thousands of boxing fans stormed a newly built stadium in Reno, Nevada, to witness an epic showdown. Jack Johnson, the world’s first Black heavyweight champion—and most infamous athlete in the world because of his race—was paired against Jim Jeffries, a former heavyweight champion then heralded as the “great white hope.” It was the height of the Jim Crow era, and spectators were eager for Jeffries to restore the racial hierarchy that Johnson had pummeled with his quick fists.
Transporting readers directly into the ring, artist Youssef Daoudi and poet Adrian Matejka intersperse dramatic boxing action with vivid flashbacks to reveal how Johnson, the self-educated son of formerly enslaved parents, reached the pinnacle of sport—all while facing down a racist justice system. Through a combination of breathtaking illustrations and striking verse, Last on His Feet honors a contentious civil rights figure who has for more than a century been denied his proper due.
Adrian Matejka is the author of The Big Smoke, which won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. He teaches creative writing at Indiana University in Bloomington.
— Brandon Tensley - Smithsonian
A desert boxing match becomes an epic, a tragic symbol, and a thunderous encapsulation of America’s bloody racial history in this passionately told graphic history from Daoudi (Monk!) and Matejka (The Big Smoke) about America’s first Black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson (1878–1946) . . . This is a big brawl of a book that, like the greatest boxing matches, finds the poetry in the violence.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
Lyrical narration and powerfully evocative black-and-white illustration combine for an uncommonly propulsive, completely immersive biography.
— Library Journal, starred review