In this 1932 file photo, boxer Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, poses in New York City.
Black athletes have been finding a way to fight for social change for more than 100 years, from Jack Johnson, to Muhammad Ali to Kaepernick.
(AP)In an era of lynchings and Jim Crow, Jack Johnson lived out his credo.
He broke boxing’s color barrier to become the first black heavyweight champion in 1908.
A onetime Chicagoan, Johnson is buried at Graceland Cemetery on the North Side.
The stain of an unjust, racially charged conviction, however, mars his reputation and the name of his surviving relatives.
“Knowing that he was treated unfairly and unfairly convicted and targeted because of his choice of companions, who happened to be Caucasian, that’s wrong,” Johnson’s great-great niece, Linda Haywood of Chicago, recently told The Associated Press.”The last thing you want to do is die and have your name tarnished. John Mc Cain and Orrin Hatch, to name a few — lobbied President George W. Department of Justice, however, has consistently maintained a general policy that its time and resources are better spent on pardons and commutations for people still alive. A pardon is a powerful expression of presidential authority, and at times that authority has been abused.
That’s wrong.”Haywood and other surviving Johnson relatives want the Trump administration to grant Johnson a posthumous pardon. For nearly a decade and a half, many influential people — documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and U. Bush and then the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, to clear Johnson’s name. In the waning hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton granted no fewer than 140 pardons, many of them to people with whom he had political connections.
Certainly a gross misuse of executive discretion, and one we denounced.
Used correctly, however, a pardon makes a powerful statement not just about a man’s innocence, but also about the mistreatment society inflicted on him, in Johnson’s case the use of law as a cudgel of discrimination.