Senate asks Obama to pardon late boxing legend Jack Johnson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate urged President Barack Obama to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908 — 100 years before Obama was elected America’s first black president. The boxer was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed.  The resolution was sponsored by Obama’s 2008 opponent, John McCain. Similar resolutions offered in 2004 and last year failed to pass both chambers of Congress.

He said that there would be “tremendous historic significance” in the nation’s first black president pardoning the nation’s first black heavyweight champ. King added that he hoped Congress will take up the resolution next month.  Neither McCain nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment. But in unveiling the resolution in April, McCain said, “We need to erase this act of racism which sent an American citizen to prison on a trumped-up charge.” It (the resolution) says a pardon would “expunge a racially motivated abuse of the prosecutorial authority of the federal government from the annals of criminal justice in the United States.”

Freestyle with me, is this actually a good thing? Jack Johnson is dead and gone after spending years in prison.  It seems that this sweep under the rug would actually erase the countries conscience and memory of what Jack Johnson went through.  Is this the best way to fix his reputation?  I am curious what you think…


  1. Albert Griffin · July 8, 2009

    My brotha, finally we have time… to think and respond to something other than classwork. I did not know he died in prison. I am sorry to hear that. I don’t think it would necessary to pardon him now. I think the stigma of injustice should remain a pungent aroma in the nostrils of our hearts. It’s like driving over or near a skunk… you always remember the significance of wanting to get as far away from it as possible, and never, ever wanting to get near it again, hoping it didn’t get on your car.

  2. freestyle · July 8, 2009

    Well said… it’s interesting that when it comes to the atrocities of racism done against blacks, people often want to forget and move on. However, with the holocaust the Jews have a saying “Never Forget, Never Again”. With the drastic nature of the middle passage (where more died than in the holocaust), slavery for 250 years, followed by black codes, Jim Crow laws, 5,000 lynchings (the ones recorded, not the total), discrimination, and racial profiling, I think it would be fair for us to take on a similar ideology as our Jewish brothers and sisters. Like you said Albert, the memory should provoke and disturb us, hopefully preventing such things from ever happening again.

  3. DR · July 8, 2009

    In the text it says that “The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed.”
    I have a question: Would Mr. Johnson still be found quilty of the law as it stands now?

  4. freestyle · July 8, 2009

    There are plenty of ridiculous laws that are seen as unjust or irrelevant that are officially on the books still in many towns throughout the U.S., however they are not executed or followed through anymore. From the sound of it, he Well they didn’t mention the specifics of either the old law or the new law. But it seems clear that the senate sees his sentencing as a “trumped-up charge.” In another article it says specifically that the judge said he wanted to make an example out of Jack Johnson, because of his relationship with the white woman. I don’t think the Senate would be worried about a person’s reputation if they thought he was truly guilty of the crime he was sentenced for. That’s my thoughts at least, but of course there is some speculation on my part.

  5. DR · July 9, 2009

    Just because I heard that Eliot Spitzer was to be charged under the same law, I was curious. Eliot was with a prostitute. I was wondering if Mr. Johnson might have been guilty of the same since some of the biographies paint him as having quite the appetite for women.
    Personally, I think John McCain is shameful for bringing up this resolution because I think he’s just pandering and has no real heartfelt reason behind it.
    Other than that – Jack Johnson was due the apology and anything done now is about as useful as utters on a bull. It’s water under the bridge in the sense that the injured party is no longer with us.
    Let his memory serve to remind us to be better. I think that would please Mr Johnson (and honor his memory) more than anything else.

  6. ElenaLisvato · August 6, 2009

    amazing stuff thanx 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s