U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion who was jailed a century ago after having a relationship with a white woman.
“I believe Jack Johnson is a worthy person to receive a pardon, to correct a wrong in our history,” Trump said.
In a case that came to symbolize racial injustice, Johnson was arrested in 1912 with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife, for violating the Mann Act. The law was passed two years earlier and made it a crime to take a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, CNBC reports.
Johnson died in 1946.
Actor Sylvester Stallone, famous as the star of the “Rocky” boxing-movie franchise, and boxer Lennox Lewis flanked Trump for the pardon in the Oval Office. In April, Trump tweeted that he was considering the pardon after talking to Stallone.
Earlier on Thursday, Stallone posted a photo of himself at the White House on Instagram with the caption “Waiting for the moment to go into the oval office for the pardon…”
John Arthur Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), nicknamed the Galveston Giant, was an American boxer who, at the height of the Jim Crow era, became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). Among the period’s most dominant champions, Johnson remains a boxing legend, with his 1910 fight against James J. Jeffries dubbed the “fight of the century.”
In 1912, Johnson was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act—forbidding one to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”—a racially motivated charge that embroiled him in controversy for his relationships, including marriages, with white women. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, “for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth”
Jack Johnson’s last fight.
On the afternoon of April 5, 1915, for over an hour and a half, champion and challenger battled through 25 three-minute rounds in 100+ degree heat in a ring standing at the finish line at the Oriental Race Track in Havana, Cuba. The pace of the fight was more like a baseball game than a boxing match, but it lacked neither drama nor excitement. By the end of the contest, the 37-year-old champion Jack Johnson had thrown every punch, tried every physical and verbal tactic in his arsenal on his unyielding challenger. Jess Willard, the 33-year-old 6’6” giant, a man with limited skills, but immense size and strength, would not only withstand an hour of relentless attacks, but stick to his fight plan of probing and leading with long left jabs followed by overhand rights and uppercuts. After 20 rounds, Johnson was leading on points. His lead was due to work rate rather than domination. Willard was never seriously hurt and many of Johnson’s punches were blocked by the challenger’s arms and gloves. As the champion slowed down, Willard drove the once untouchable, unbeatable Jack Johnson into exhaustion and retreat. Shortly into the twenty-sixth round, Willard scored with two rights. The first one grazed the champion’s chin, and the second slammed squarely against Johnson’s jaw, dropping him to the canvas where he lay on his back as the referee counted him out. The crowd stormed the ring and Willard was besieged by fans. Johnson was lifted to his feet and led across the ring by his handlers.”
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 24th, 2018