UNITED STATES—On Thursday, May 24, President Donald Trump pardoned Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. The presidential pardon was issued posthumously, over a 100 years after his conviction.
Posthumous pardons are rare. Johnson’s pardon is only the third pardon ever given. The Department of Justice’s policy on posthumous pardons states, “It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offenses not be processed for adjudication by PARDON. The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the executive clemency process is better spent on the pardon and commutation requests of living persons.”
Johnson’s conviction was the result of a 1913 incident where he was accused and convicted of kidnapping his Caucasian girlfriend under the Mann Act. The Mann Act aimed to prevent human trafficking. After fleeing the country, Johnson returned to serve several months of his jail sentence before he died in 1946.
Trump tweeted on April 21: “Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”
Trump commented in the Oval Office that the prosecution of Johnson resulted in what “many view as a racially motivated injustice. He was treated very rough.”
Johnson’s great-great niece, Linda Haywood, and movie star, Sylvester Stallone, were on hand in the Oval Office when the president issued the pardon and said, “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.”
Written By Candace Buford and Kelsey Thomas