President Donald Trump has granted a pardon for boxing’s first black heavyweight champion long after his death. Trump’s action comes more than 100 years after the late Jack Johnson was convicted by all-white jury of accompanying a white woman across state lines.
Johnson was convicted in 1913 for violating the Mann Act. This act made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes. He died in 1946 at the age of 68.
Trump was considering the pardon since April when his friend Sylvester Stallone brought the story to his attention. Johnson story was fictionalized for the play “The Great White Hope,” starring James Earl Jones, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play in 1969 and became a film in 1970.
Many want to know why Trump decided to Pardon Johnson and Obama did not. This may be why according to the Gaurdian
And why a pardon for Johnson now? Perhaps wisely, Barack Obama took a second pass in 2015 (the first was in 2009) when Congress approved a bill which included a resolution to pardon Johnson. As Jesse Washington noted, “Exonerating Johnson would have opened Obama up to racial repercussions unique to the first black president … Obama was focused on clemency for living victims of mass incarceration policies, which disproportionately affect the black community.” If Obama had pardoned Johnson, you can bet Fox News would have revived the real Johnson and screamed bloody murder.
So why has Trump decided to be Johnson’s savior? There is perhaps a feeling that Trump would use a pardon to score points over Obama. Washington feels that “a pardon would provide Trump with an opportunity to do something, albeit symbolic, about racial injustice. Trump’s Justice Department is reviving the ‘tough on crime’ policies that created the racially biased disaster of mass incarceration – the exact catastrophe that Obama tried to mitigate with both policy and his huge number of commuted sentences.”
So should Johnson be pardoned? After all, the Mann Act rap on Johnson never had much credence. Gerald Early, chairman of Black American Studies at Washington University in St Louis and editor of, among other books, The Muhammad Ali Reader, says: “I think it is fine to pardon Johnson. It was obviously a racially motivated prosecution that was done under a very poorly conceived piece of legislation. But there were other questionable or debatable prosecutions under the act that should be looked into as well, Chuck Berry’s for instance. In as much the law is an example of federal overreach and has clearly not done well what it was purported to be trying to do – namely, protect women from being prostituted – probably many who were imprisoned under the act should be pardoned.”