Donald Trump is considering giving a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson after a conversation with actor Sylvester Stallone he revealed last week. Johnson, who was the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion in history, was convicted in 1913 of taking his white girlfriend across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Johnson was charged under the Mann act, which sought to combat sex trafficking.
“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial,” Trump tweeted. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”
Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury and ended up serving a year in jail. Critics of the legislation claim the Mann Act was used inconsistently to convict African-Americans and people with opposing political views. Johnson was ultimately unsuccessful in trying to get his boxing career back on track and win the title back after being released from jail. He died in 1946.
President Trump isn’t the first person to call for a pardon of the famous boxer. Former Senator, Harry Reid and John McCain petitioned the Obama administration in 2016 to pardon Johnson in honor of the 70th Anniversary of his death. A renewed effort for a pardon was made in 2017, when Sen. Corey Booker joined McCain, as well as others, in petitioning for the boxer’s 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 from the lawmakers at the time read.
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