Johnson was the first black heavy-weight boxing world champion. He defeated
all opponents and had no equal. The was very distressing for whites in America
who were challenged in their views of racial superiority for the first time.
Johnson didn't merely offend the whites through his physical prowess, but
also through his flaunting of wealth, racing cars, and most egregiously,
associating with white women, often several at a time. This was also a great
offense to many blacks.
Unable to best him in the boxing ring, the white community went after him
over his personal life.
Johnson was charged with violating the Mann Act in November 1912 for traveling across state lines
with his white mistress, prior to the enactment of the Act. The Mann Act was
designed to stop the interstate prostitution trade. It was not intended, and
could not reasonably interpreted to apply to consensual adults.
a result of Johnson's conviction, years in exile, and eventual imprisonment,
many states enacted fornication laws to criminalize pre-marital sex as well as
miscegenation laws to prohibit interracial marriage. Others started enforcing
their existing laws.
1967 only 13 states still had miscegenation laws when they were declared
unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.
2003, fornication laws existed in 15 states (Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North
Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West
Virginia) and the District of Columbia. These laws are
rarely enforced, and rarely used like sodomy laws against people presumed to
be in violation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence
v. Texas on June 26, 2003 presumably rendered them
2004, Washington, D.C.
repealed its fornication and adultery laws as part of a clean up of outdated
criminal laws along with rules for dueling.
January 14, 2005, Virginia's
Supreme Court ruled that fornication law unconstitutional citing Lawrence.
are now underway, thanks to documentary film maker Ken Burns, to get a
posthumous presidential pardon for Jack Johnson. Ken Burns also made an
excellent 4 hour documentary on Jack Johnson.
PBS Documentary by Ken Burns: Unforgivable
Blackness, The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson - premiered January 17,
Memorabilia from Jack
Johnson’s Era Packs Quite a Punch - San
Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2005
Jackson Seeks Posthumous
Pardon for Boxer Johnson - Chicago
Tribune, January 30, 2005
Visitors Drawn to Jack
Johnson’s Grave in Chicago - Chicago
Tribune, January 25, 2005
Pardoning Jack Johnson
- Alternet.org, January 19,
Feds Made Johnson, and
Interracial Sex America’s Taboo - EURweb,
January 18, 2005
Jack Johnson Film Goes a
Round Against Racism - Boston
Herald, January 16, 2005
The Great Jack Johnson - BoxingScene.com,
Esteemed Committee Spearheads
Boxer Jack Johnson Presidential Pardon Effort; Praises Senate Resolution
- October 7, 2004
McCain Resolution Calling on
President to Posthumously Pardon First African American Heavyweight Boxing
Champion Passes Senate - October 7, 2004
- Time for Johnson’s Pardon -
Jeff Parish in the The Galveston
County Daily News, January 19, 2005
- ‘Unforgivably’ Black &
All-American - Stanley Crouch in the New
York Daily News, January 17, 2005
- Jack Johnson’s Painful Tale -
Dick Heller in the Washington
Times, January 16, 2005
Not to Forgive Johnson -
L.A. Daily News,
January 16, 2005
- Mr. President, Pardon Jack Johnson - Ken Burns in the Los
Angeles Times, July 13, 2004
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