Trump Pardons Late Boxer Jack Johnson
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by Countable | 5.25.18
What’s the story?
- President Donald Trump has granted a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the world’s first African American heavyweight boxing champion.
- Actor and boxing aficionado Sylvester Stallone had been advocating for the pardon. He joined former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and current champion Deontay Wilder at the White House for the ceremony on Thursday.
- “Today I've issued an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, posthumously, to John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson…The first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, a truly great fighter. Had a tough life," Trump said.
- The president tweeted last month that he was considering a pardon for Jackson, who died in 1946.
Why did Johnson need a pardon?
- In 1913, Johnson was convicted under the Mann Act for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for “immoral” purposes. Critics have argued that the Mann Act was used to criminalize African Americans.
- An all-white jury convicted Johnson, and the “Galveston Giant” was imprisoned for a year.
- Because of his federal conviction, Jackson was denied licenses to fight in many states. It effectively destroyed his boxing career.
The “Great White Hope”
- In 1910, Jackson defended his title against former Caucasian champion Jim Jeffries. Jackson’s victory sparked racial riots across the country, and led to a search for the “Great White Hope” who could defeat the African American boxer.
- Another Jack – London, author of The Call of the Wild – wrote at the time:
“Jim Jeffries must now emerge from his Alfalfa farm and remove that golden smile from Jack Johnson's face. Jeff, it's up to you. The White Man must be rescued."
- The woman who Johnson was accused of transporting across state lines claimed Johnson had beaten her.
- Ken Burns, who examined the boxer’s life in his documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, and who advocated for a pardon, acknowledged that Jackson is a controversial figure, especially during the #MeToo movement
- "I assume [the pardon taking so long] had to do with Johnson's checkered past and complicated personal life, and not the interests of justice," Burns told USA Today.
What do you think?
Do you support the pardon? Are there other posthumous pardons you’d like to see? Hit Take Action and share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: Author unknown / Creative Commons)
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