President Trump on Thursday pardoned Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, who was convicted in 1913 of transporting a white woman across state lines.
Mr. Trump signed the pardon for Johnson during an Oval Office ceremony, sitting at the Resolute Desk and flanked by Sylvester Stallone, Lennox Lewis and other fighters.
The president called Johnson “a truly great fighter, had a tough life,” but served 10 months in federal prison “for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice.” Mr. Trump said the conviction took place during a “period of tremendous racial tension in the United States.”
He was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which prohibited travelling with a woman across state lines “for immoral purposes.” The woman Johnson transported, Belle Schreiber, who had worked as a prostitute, had dated the heavyweight champion.
Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison, but he fled the country for several years, returning in 1920 to serve his sentence.