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Jack Johnson

Boxer Jack Johnson   Source: MPI / Getty

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A bipartisan effort by lawmakers is seeking a posthumous pardon for the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion.

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Sen. Cory Booker  Source: Anadolu Agency / Getty


Sen. John McCain  Source: PEDRO PARDO / Getty

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey are leading the effort to clear the name of boxing legend, Jack Johnson. Johnson became heavyweight champ in 1908, however his trailblazing career and reputation was ruined in 1913 after he was convicted of transporting a white woman across state lines in violation of the Mann Act. The Mann Act, according to, is a federal statute prohibiting interstate or foreign transportation of person with the intention of engaging that person in sexual activity or prostitution.

In a Senate resolution, Booker called Johnson “a historic force and cultural icon” whose life and career were ruined by “a racially motivated conviction.” A similar resolution is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Peter King and Democrat Gregory Meeks, both from New York. Nicknamed “The Galveston Giant” after his Texas hometown, Johnson dated and married a series of white women throughout his successful career. At issue in the Mann Act case was a woman who would become one of the champ’s wives.


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