President’s Posthumous Pardon Restores Boxer’s Legacy

May 31, 2018 GMT

Until Thursday, President Donald Trump had used his pardon-issuing pen more as a political cudgel than as an instrument of justice. He pardoned Arizona sheriff and Senate candidate Joe Arpaio, who had violated a federal court order to stop racially profiling immigrants, and has blatantly held out the prospect of pardons for associates caught up in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Thursday, Trump issued a long-overdue pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson won the championship in 1908 to the dismay of white society, which was even more outraged that the flamboyant Johnson flaunted his wealth, dated white women and otherwise didn’t adhere to the appropriate stereotype. Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which outlawed transportating women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” The white woman in question was Johnson’s girlfriend, who had not been coerced. Previous presidents had declined to pardon Johnson because there are lingering reports the he had committed domestic abuse. But he never was charged with any such conduct. The posthumous pardon rights a historical wrong, as Sen. John McCain put it, and restores the great boxer’s rightful legacy.