On Thursday, President Donald Trump posthumously pardoned world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Trump posthumously pardons boxer jack johnson

Trump pardoned Johnson, who was African-American, for violating the 1913 Mann Act by carrying a white woman across state lines, during a time when interracial relationships of any kind, even consensual ones, were virtually illegal. Last month, Trump said he was weighing a pardon for Johnson after receiving a phone call from actor Sylvester Stallone, the writer and star of the Rocky film franchise. On Thursday, Trump was surrounded at the White House by several celebrities including Stallone and both former and current boxers like Lennox Lewis. 

In 1908, at age 30, Johnson became the first black man to win the world heavyweight title after defeating Canadian boxer Tommy Burns via TKO in the 14th round.

Johnson died at the age of 68 in a car accident in 1946, the year Trump was born. He was repeatedly denied the opportunity to fight several white boxers for major championships due to his race. He was born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas to former slaves.

Jim Jeffries — a late famous white boxer — came out of retirement to fight Johnson in 1910. Johnson won the match via a 15th-round TKO, and major riots across the country began soon afterwards.

In his announcement of the pardon, Trump called Johnson “a truly great fighter” and noted how the boxer had served 10 months in prison “for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice.”

Johnson’s conviction for violating the Mann Act was re-examined decades later, and experts used it as an example of a case that ended terribly unjustly due to a deeply flawed and racially discriminatory American justice system.

Since taking office, Trump has issued three other pardons: former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Navy submariner Kristian Mark Saucier, and former George W. Bush Administration official Scooter Libby. 

Arpaio — who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican this year — is known for being an immigration hardliner who detained several immigrants in his Arizona country and even abused many of these immigrants by illegally keeping them in camps with harsh living conditions.

Saucier was convicted for taking unauthorized photos in the classified section of a submarine. Libby — former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff — was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 for his involvement in revealing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. 

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