- On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion.
- Johnson had been convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act in a case that would later be held up as an example of the racism that persisted in the country.
- Trump tweeted in April that actor Sylvester Stallone had called him to tell him the story of Johnson, and invited Stallone and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis to the signing.
President Trump had some interesting company at the White House today, hosting actor Sylvester Stallone and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis for the posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion.
Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, charged with the crime of transporting a white woman across state lines “for immoral purposes.” Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison and fled the country, but returned to the States in 1920 and served his sentence.
“He was treated very rough, very tough,” Trump noted on Thursday as he signed the pardon.
Years after Johnson’s conviction, his case was held up as an example of the racism and injustice that still affected African-Americans. Bills requesting a pardon for Johnson had been brought up through the past two presidential administrations, but neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama chose to sign one.
Trump tweeted in April that he was considering a full pardon for Johnson after Stallone called him to tell him about the late boxer’s story.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
”It’s my honor to do it,” Trump said of the pardon. “It’s about time.”