After years of petitioning, the late, great Jack Johnson, boxing's first African-American world heavyweight champion, has been pardoned.
President Donald Trump hosted Johnson's great-great niece Linda Bell Haywood, current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, former world heavyweight Lennox Lewis and "Rocky" series actor Sylvester Stallone in an event at the White House where Trump gave a posthumous pardon to Johnson for violating the Mann Act.
"Today I've issued an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, posthumously, to John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson ... The first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, a truly great fighter. Had a tough life," Trump said.
Johnson, who passed away in 1946, was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury under the Mann Act for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for "immoral" purposes. The Mann Act purported to prevent human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution, but critics have argued it was applied inconsistently to criminalize African Americans and those with dissenting political views.
Starting out as a professional boxer at the end of the 19th century, Johnson fought for the better part of four decades. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, and is on the roster of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
There was an effort to have Johnson pardoned in 2016 led by then-Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona and another effort in 2017. Recently, Trump had said he would consider pardoning Johnson after a phone call with Stallone.