Last edited: January 30, 2005

Jackson Seeks Posthumous Pardon for Boxer Johnson

Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2005

CHICAGO—Jack Johnson’s cultural stature has grown in recent months, in large part because of Ken Burns’ new documentary about the nation’s first African-American heavyweight boxing champion.

Now Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), himself a boxing fan, is sponsoring a bill urging President Bush to grant the boxer a posthumous pardon.

In 1913, Johnson was accused of transporting a woman across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery.” Johnson ended up marrying that woman, who was white.

Her mother disapproved of the relationship and accused Johnson of abducting her daughter. Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison in what many thought was a racially motivated prosecution.

Jackson, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), said Johnson’s conviction “unjustly ruined his career and destroyed his reputation.”

The House and Senate are expected to pass the bill, and Bush may be sympathetic to the cause. When he was governor of Texas, he declared March 31 “Jack Johnson Day” in honor of the Galveston native.

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