McCain Seeks Presidential Pardon for First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champ

April 1, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Senator John McCain has frequently expressed regret over the years, for his hurtful 1983 vote against the federal holiday honoring civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. The scrappy Republican, always ready for a fight, is perhaps attempting to make up for his decades old vote, by his passionate support of a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champ. Johnson was convicted in 1913 for violating the Mann Act because he dated white women, something unheard of at the turn of the 20th century.

The Man Act prohibits men from transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes. Johnson’s arrest and conviction under that law in 1913 cannot be viewed any other way, except as a racist act by the white establishment who wanted to take Johnson down a peg. Johnson later spent 10 months in prison for the “crime” of dating and marrying white women.

Johnson’s amazing life and accomplishments were told in a 2005 documentary produced by filmmaker Kevin Burns. Burns elicited McCain’s help to get Johnson’s record cleared, seeing his conviction as a racially motivated act of injustice. Burns tried to secure a pardon for Jack Johnson before in 2004, but he was unable to find anyone to push it through. Now with McCain, who once boxed while in the service, taking up the cause, the pardon may become a reality. Representative Peter King is also on board.

Johnson was the very first black boxer to break the color barrier, allowed to fight a white boxer. He beat white Australian boxer Tommy Burns on December 26, 1908 and won the world heavyweight title. The first American black fighter do to so. Ever since Johnson’s win, the boxing establishment at that time, searched for a white boxer dubbed as the “great white hope,” to take Johnson down and restore the title to a white man.

Johnson when on to beat other white fighters, especially title champion, Jim Jeffries. It took seven years after his first title, for another boxer to take away Johnson’s title, and that was Jess Willard in 1915.

Johnson was known as a proud man, who worked his way to fame with lots of hard work and only a fifth grade education. One hundred years ago, the United States was not ready for such a successful black man, but Jack Johnson with his huge talent and quiet grace couldn’t be ignored.

McCain sees a great symbolic gesture in the making if President Obama, as the first black president, grants a pardon to Johnson, but Burns views it as a color-blind issue of injustice, which should be remedied.

Jack Johnson lived a flamboyant life filled with many achievements, breaking many taboos in the process. His life ended suddenly in 1946, at the age 68 in a car crash, after he was refused service at a “whites only” diner and raced angrily away.



One Response to “McCain Seeks Presidential Pardon for First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champ”

  1. Republicans Waiting for a ‘Great White Hope,’ Says GOP Rep | ChattahBox News Blog on August 27th, 2009 5:46 pm

    […] phrase, “great white hope” has long been associated with racism and originated during the time a black fighter, Jack Johnson […]

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