On June 22, 1938, 70,000 fans crammed into Yankee stadium to watch what some observers have since called "the most important sporting event in history." Millions more tuned in to hear a blow-by-blow description on the radio. The rematch between the African American heavyweight Joe Lewis and his German opponent Max Schmeling was riveting - "one hundred and twenty–four seconds of murder," as one newspaper put it. But for most spectators the fight was much more than a boxing match; it was an historic event heightened with symbolic significance, both a harbinger of the civil rights movement and a prelude to World War II. In this first feature-length documentary about the momentous encounter, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE captures the anticipation the bout generated, the swirl of events leading up to it, the impact Louis’s victory had on black America and its significance for Jews on both sides of the Atlantic. The surprise will be Schmeling’s role in Hitler Germany and his true feelings towards Louis and the Holocaust. PBS Home Video. 90 minutes.
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