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Mr. President, please pardon Jack Johnson -- by Ken Burns

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HuckleB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 02:36 PM
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Mr. President, please pardon Jack Johnson -- by Ken Burns

Mr. President, please pardon Jack Johnson

"...Johnson was everything that a black man of his era was not supposed to be: outspoken, articulate, intelligent, powerful, wealthy, good-looking and charming. This made him a hero to most of black America, but it also made him a dangerous enemy to much of white America. His mere presence threatened the notion that blacks belonged to an inferior, subservient race.

Unable to beat him in the ring, his enemies sought other ways to bring Johnson low. In 1912, federal authorities in Chicago went after him in court instead, bringing charges against him for violating the Mann Act, a federal law designed to help fight prostitution by making it a crime to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. But virtually everyone knew and the prosecuting attorney even admitted that the real object was to punish Johnson for daring to engage in romantic relationships with white women.

In court, the federal prosecutors argued that Jackson committed a crime against nature for engaging in sexual intercourse with a white woman. The fact that he married the woman only a few months after he was arrested made no difference. He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.


In many ways, Johnsons adversaries succeeded in their mission to cut him down to size. They sought a conviction against Johnson to send a message to blacks: Dont hold your head too high. Dont believe youre any better than you really are. Dont walk too proudly. And never engage in intimate relations with whites."

More on Ken Burns' involvement in this matter:

Ken Burns, others seek Jack Johnson pardon
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