Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, is long overdue a pardon. Johnson paved the way for black boxers like me. But he was a victim of racist Jim Crow justice and was wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury in June 1913, under the Mann Act, for dating a white woman. This unjust prosecution ultimately tarnished his legacy and ended his career. But Senator Harry Reid and Senator John McCain have taken up this issue and are working towards a pardon - President Obama should support their effort.
Johnson was born as the son of former slaves in Texas and in his career as a boxer, he broke the rules of the segregated Jim Crow era by fighting and beating a white boxer. But he also dated white women - eventually marrying one. This infuriated many southern racists and in 1913, authorities sentenced him under The Mann Act to to a year and a day in prison for crossing state lines in the company of a white girlfriend.
The Mann Act was a law passed on June 25th, 1910, named after Congressman James Robert Mann. In it’s original form the law prohibited white slavery and the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes, which was to address prostitution. However, it’s ambiguous language of “immorality” allowed selective prosecutions, which was the unfortunate case of Mr. Johnson.
This unjust prosecution ultimately tarnished Jack Johnson’s legacy. Senator Harry Reid and Senator John McCain have taken up this issue and are working towards a pardon. Let’s show President Obama and the White House that we too care about Jack Johnson’s legacy by signing this petition. In doing so, we are also righting the legacy of our great country.
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