Trump Grants Pardon to Legendary Boxer Jack Johnson
The first African-American heavyweight champion served a year in prison on a racially-biased charge.
More than 100 years after being convicted on what many claim was a racially-biased conviction, boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, was granted a rare presidential pardon by President Donald Trump.
“I am taking this very righteous step, I believe, to correct a wrong that occurred in our history and to honor a truly legendary boxing champion,” Trump said during an Oval Office ceremony, according to The Associated Press. Trump invited WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, retired heavyweight titleholder Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone to join him for the ceremony. He credits Stallone with championing the pardon.
Johnson was a prominent athlete who crossed over into popular culture just after the turn of the 20th century, with biographies, dramas and documentaries made about him. He was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for allegedly violating the Mann Act, which targeted sex trafficking, for traveling with his white girlfriend. The law said that it was illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral purposes,” AP reports. Before he could be brought in, he fled and spent seven years as a fugitive after his conviction. But he eventually returned to the U.S. and turned himself in. He served about a year in a federal prison and was released in 1921. He died in 1946 in a car crash.
Lewis said during the ceremony that Johnson had been an inspiration to him personally. Stallone said that Johnson served as the basis of the character Apollo Creed in his Rocky films.
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