National Museum of African American History and Culture

Undefeated history: A look back at Battles Royale – only there was nothing royal about it

A brief look at one of the most savage remnants of pre-1950s America

Up until the 1940s, black boys – as many as 10 at a time – would be placed in a boxing ring and told to fight each other. Sometimes they’d be blindfolded, or have one hand tied behind their backs. Afterward, they were given tin cups and told to ask the audience for tips. These were known as Battles Royale.

In this video, Damion L. Thomas, curator of sports for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, explains the history of the event and its lasting legacy on American sports.