Jack Johnson: Remember I was a man…

Image© Library of Congress

Legal Eagle

Of course some people pretend to object to Mr Johnson`s character but we have yet to hear in the case of White America that marital troubles have disqualified prize fighters or ball players or even statesmen. It comes down then after all to this unforgivable blackness…WB Dubois.

The campaign to posthumously pardon one of the all time greats of world boxing, Jack Johnson is gathering pace in the USA. Johnson was the first African-American to win the World Heavyweight Championship in 1908, a sporting victory of incredible social and cultural significance. Jack defeated Tommy Burns in Australia, Burns lured by a $30,000 pay day. Jack held the title until 1915, he was defeated in dubious circumstances in a contest which pitted him against Jess Willard, a gruelling fight held in the blazing heat of Cuba. Willard knocked Johnson down in the twenty-sixth round (when Johnson was ahead on points). It was later suggested that the fight was a fix (an opinion sanctioned by Johnson). This view granted credence when Johnson was famously photographed protecting his eyes from the sun as he lay on the canvas, awaiting the referee to count him out. Whatever the merits of this sporting event (the defeat probably genuine), it appears beyond doubt that Jack Johnson`s criminal conviction under the Mann Act, was a travesty of justice. It is this issue that has brought Johnson back into the news, allowing a review of his treatment at the hands of the Jim Crow criminal justice system. Read more of this post