First Look: Forest Whitaker’s Bumpy Johnson Dodges Casual Racism and White Women in Godfather of Harlem

Godfather of Harlem, Episode 4 - “I Am The Greatest” Clip / Courtesy of EPIX

That moment when you realize microaggressions don’t only happen in the corporate office.


EPIX’s Godfather of Harlem series is underway and this Sunday, we’re talking boxing.

From the series’ official press release:

Godfather of Harlem is inspired by the true story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from eleven years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X (Nigél Thatch)—catching Malcolm’s political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. Godfather of Harlem is a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.


In the clip above from Episode 4, “I Am The Greatest,” Johnson discusses the upcoming boxing match of Cassius Clay (who would officially become Muhammad Ali) with a couple of backers who are concerned about his “fraternizing” with a man who refers to white people as “white devils.” That man is, of course, Malcolm X.

The backers then proceed to riff on the champ’s Nation of Islam-inspired name change calling him “Cassius X,” “Cassius Y” or “Daffy Duck.” Ha. Funny. *eyeroll*

Plus, there’s some sexual tension involving his white woman “friend,” who he has to tell to “stop calling [his] house.” Whew chillay!

Godfather of Harlem airs Sundays on EPIX at 9 p.m. ET. Episode 4 airs this Sunday, Oct. 20 at 9 p.m. ET.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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