Published: Mon, April 23, 2018
Life&Culture | By Ben Goodman

Donald Trump tweets he's considering pardon of boxer Jack Johnson

Donald Trump tweets he's considering pardon of boxer Jack Johnson

Johnson's victory launched a racially-motivated search for what was called the "great white hope," a white man who could beat Johnson.

His rise occurred in the midst of the Jim Crow era, where the lynching of black men was all too common. The authorities then found another white witness, Belle Schreiber, how testified against Johnson. He lost his title in a fight in Havana, Cuba, in 1915.

Jack Johnson, right, of the United States of America, world heavyweight title holder since 1908, in action against Jess Willard of the US at Havana, Cuba in 1915.

Since entering office, the president has issued three other pardons, some of them controversial.

Lawyers for the Justice Department at the time argued that Johnson's relationship with a white woman was a "crime against nature".

Johnson, a former heavyweight champion, was arrested in 1912 on suspicion of violating the Mann Act - which forbid people from transporting women across state lines for "immoral purposes".

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Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury but spent seven years as an exiled fugitive in Europe before turning himself in and serving a year in prison. He skipped bail and fled to Europe, but served nearly a year behind bars when he returned to the U.S.in 1920.

He finally returned to the U.S.in 1920 to face charges.

Johnson has been the aim of racial resentment after he defeated a boxer in the 1910 "Fight of this Century", a bout that sparked race riots. To date, his criminal record has not been cleared. George W Bush and Barack Obama, the first black president, did not act on the matter but the Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain has supported legislation for a pardon.

"While it is unfortunate that this unjust conviction was not corrected during the boxer's lifetime, a posthumous pardon today represents the opportunity to reaffirm Jack Johnson's substantial contributions to our society and right this historical wrong", the letter said.

Haywood said she was optimistic that Trump would follow through, but she was trying to keep her excitement at bay until she knew for a fact that he would give Johnson the pardon.

Since the turn of the century, a campaign for a posthumous pardon has gathered pace. President Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American officer to lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War; he was framed for embezzlement.

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