Constructing G. I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the 'Negro Problem' during World War II

TitleConstructing G. I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the 'Negro Problem' during World War II
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsSklaroff, Lauren Rebecca
JournalJournal of American History
Date Published12/2002

 In and through the Joe Louis Barrow persona, state administrators could advocate an ethos of racial liberalism, while temporarily skirting the issue of discrimination in American life. To the chagrin of Walter White and other black leaders, Louis's baptism as an American hero required that he mute his stance on the most serious problems plaguing black individuals. The official construction of Joe Louis involved a depoliticization of the Brown Bomber as he became the quintessential symbol of Americanness; Louis was overtly disconnected from charged racial issues, instead representing black patriotism and black citizenship. Governmental attempts carefully to demarcate the construction of Joe Louis, however, demonstrated how plans for cultural production often failed to anticipate the alternative meanings that images offered. When Louis was featured in military boxing exhibitions, on film, and on war posters, the iconography was not easily divorced from the racially charged definition it implied. Furthermore, as the most visible black figure of the war era, portrayed as a moral, patriotic man, Louis countered racial stereotypes frequent in popular culture.  [Author]

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