President Donald Trump, Sylvester Stallone standing by his side, today gave a full pardon, posthumously, to Jack Johnson, the country’s first black heavyweight boxing champion, In 1913, at the height of the Jim Crow era, an all-white jury convicted Johnson under the Mann Act of transporting a white woman with whom he was involved in a relationship across state lines.
Stallone, as well as Sen. John McCain, and Ken Burns were among those who had advocated for a pardon for Johnson, who died in 1946 and whose conviction became a prominent story of racism in the judicial system. He served 10 months in prison.
Johnson was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1908-15. Burns documented the fighter’s life in Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. The docu aired on PBS in 2005.
Johnson’s 1910 “Fight of the Century” against James J. Jeffries inspired the play-turned-movie The Great White Hope.
Making the announcement this afternoon, Trump noted Congress has supported numerous resolutions supporting Johnson but “no president ever signed it,” adding that many “thought it was going to be signed in the last administration, and that did not happen, so it was disappointing for a lot of people.”
The resolutions had support of many including the Congressional Black Caucus, Trump continued, scolding, “but they couldn’t get the president to sign it … as recently as 2015.”
Cat got let out of the bag earlier today when Stallone, three-time world heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis and current world heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder were spotted in the White House:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Pardon of John Arthur “Jack” Johnson
Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) posthumously to John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, the first African American Heavyweight Champion of the World, for a Mann Act conviction that occurred during a period of racial tension more than a century ago. Johnson served 10 months in Federal prison for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.
Born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas, to former slaves, Johnson overcame difficult circumstances to reach the heights of the boxing world and inspired generations with his tenacity and independent spirit.
Congress has supported numerous resolutions calling for Johnson’s pardon. These resolutions enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, including from the Congressional Black Caucus. One of these resolutions passed Congress as recently as 2015.
In light of these facts and in recognition of his historic athletic achievements and contributions to society, the President believes Jack Johnson is worthy of a posthumous pardon. President Trump is taking this unusual step to “right a wrong” that occurred in our history and honor the legacy of a champion.