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*On this date in 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned Black boxer Jack Johnson. The criminal conviction from 1913 was for transporting a white woman across state lines.
For more than 100 years, Jack Johnson’s legend as the first Black heavyweight boxing champion in America has been undisputed, but his legacy had been tarnished by a racially tainted criminal conviction. The president called Johnson “a truly great fighter” who “had a tough life” but served 10 months in federal prison “for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.” The President said the conviction took place during a “period of tremendous racial tension in the United States.”
Since taking office, the President has often found himself in the center of debates over race and sports, and civil rights in general, repeatedly admonishing N.F.L. players, a majority of them Black, who have knelt during the national anthem at games to protest racism and police brutality. The 105 year old conviction haunted Johnson well after his death in 1946 and motivated politicians and celebrities for years to advocate for a pardon, however symbolic the pardon may be.
Image Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times.