Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

President Trump announces posthumous pardon for heavyweight champion Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson  Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons Jack Johnson Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons
Nellie Chapman | 25 May, 2018, 12:00

President Donald Trump, Sylvester Stallone standing by his side, today gave a full pardon, posthumously, to Jack Johnson, the country's first black heavyweight boxing champion, In 1913, at the height of the Jim Crow era, an all-white jury convicted Johnson under the Mann Act of transporting a white woman with whom he was involved in a relationship across state lines.

Trump had said in April that he was considering the pardon after receiving a call from actor Sylvester Stallone. Later that year, Cameron's mother accused Johnson of kidnapping her daughter, saying, per a PBS report that accompanied Ken Burns' Jack Johnson documentary Unforgivable Blackness, that she would "rather see my daughter spend the rest of her life in an insane asylum than see her the plaything of a [n-]".

Long before that, Johnson already established himself not only as the polarizing subject of the Mann Act violation but, even more prominently, as a champion of the black community due to his tremendous success inside the squared circle.

On December 26, 1908, he won the world heavyweight championship from Canadian boxer Tommy Burns, becoming the first African-American athlete to hold the prestigious title.

His 1910 victory over white boxer James Jeffries, dubbed the "Great White Hope," stirred race riots.

Johnson, who was also known as the "Galveston Giant", having been born in that Texas city, fled the USA after the case, but returned in 1920 and turned himself in. Stallone continued advocating for the pardon once President Trump took office.

Linda Haywood, a great-great niece of Johnson, also attended the White House pardon ceremony. John McCain, [the] Arizona Republican, also has been pushing for a pardon for the boxing champion since 2004.

Johnson, who died in 1946, was convicted by an all-white jury in Chicago in 1913 of violating the Jim Crow-era White-Slave Traffic Act, that was meant to prevent and punish human trafficking and was used on Johnson for traveling with a white woman.

John McCain (R-Ariz.) had been fighting for more than a decade came to a close on Thursday, when President Donald Trump issued a posthumous pardon for heavyweight boxing legend John Arthur "Jack" Johnson.

"They couldn't get the president to sign it", Mr. Trump said.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice opted not to recommend a posthumous pardon for Johnson.

Johnson's penchant for dating white women led to a lot of trouble for the famed boxer. Johnson served a year in prison and was released in 1921. He noted - with a glancing reference to former President Barack Obama - that the last resolution in Congress calling for the pardon was in 2015.

Posthumous pardons are rare, but not unprecedented.