Pardon Jack Johnson

September 27, 2008 by  

I’ve written several times in the past about Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion who was chased out of the United States and eventually jailed for a violation of the Mann Act. Or, put more simply and honestly, Johnson was jailed for being a a confident black man. Johnson committed no crime, but his name was dragged through the mud for his audacious behavior, that included marrying white women.

Now the House of Representatives have started the ball rolling to clear Johnson’s name.

WASHINGTON — The first black heavyweight champion should be granted a presidential pardon for a racially motivated conviction 75 years ago that blemished his reputation and hurt his boxing career, the House of Representatives recommended Friday.

Jack Johnson became world heavyweight champion in 1908, sparking a search for a white boxer, dubbed “the Great White Hope,” who could beat him.

In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which outlawed the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes.

Authorities had first unsuccessfully tried to charge Johnson over his relationship with a white woman, who later became his wife. They then found another white woman who testified that Johnson had transported her across state lines in violation of the Mann Act.

Jack Johnson was convicted of transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes and served nearly a year in prison.
Johnson fled the country, returning in 1920 to serve nearly one year in prison in Leavenworth, Kan. He tried to renew his boxing career after leaving prison, but never regained his title.

The House resolution, passed by voice, states that Johnson paved the way for black athletes to participate and succeed in integrated professional sports and that he was “wronged by a racially motivated conviction prompted by his success in the boxing ring and his relationships with white women.”

The resolution urged President Bush to grant Johnson, who died in 1946, a posthumous pardon.

“He was a victim of the times and we need to set the record straight — clear his name — and recognize him for his groundbreaking contribution to the sport of boxing,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., author of the resolution.

Jack Johnson is revered in boxing circles. As a fighter, he changed the game. And as an American, he showed millions that a black man could be successful and have self-esteem. Johnson is a vital piece in America’s history. A pardon for him is long overdo. Let’s hope this passes. Johnson deserves honor, not designation as a felon.



3 Responses to “Pardon Jack Johnson”

  1. dgun on September 28th, 2008 3:27 am

    Way overdue.

    When he finally lost, there was much speculation that he lost on purpose, IIRC.

  2. William K. Wolfrum Chronicles » Blog Archive » John McCain again fights to Pardon Jack Johnson on April 1st, 2009 5:01 am

    [...] I am a long-time and firm believer that the U.S. must pardon Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight champion who was historically screwed by a fearful and racist U.S. government. Johnson - who by no means was a saint - was first chased out of the country, then finally jailed under the Mann Act. His crime? He transported a white woman over state lines. [...]

  3. A Pardon for Jack Johnson would benefit us all « Equal Rights For All « William K. Wolfrum Chronicles on February 8th, 2010 4:11 am

    [...] Johnson fled the country, eventually losing his title to Jess Willard in 1915. Johnson finally returned to the U.S. in 1920, and served his sentence in Leavenworth. It is long past time for that sentence to be stricken from his record. [...]

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Enter 300x250 Banner Code Here
  • Details: Love never dies. Ok, everything dies. But this is still sweet.

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera