Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lawmakers contend Johnson's conviction was racially motivated

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WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the world's first black heavyweight boxing champion imprisoned a century ago for his romantic relationships with white women, renewed their efforts on Tuesday.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., John McCain, R-Ariz., and and William (Mo) Cowan, D-Mass., joined Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to reintroduce a resolution urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson because he was wronged by a racially motivated conviction.

Johnson, a native of Galveston, Texas, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.

He was hated by many white Americans, especially after retaining his title by defeating white boxer Jim Jeffries in the 1910 "Fight of the Century." Johnson's victory infuriated whites, sparking deadly race riots across the country.

Authorities first targeted his relationship with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife. She refused to co-operate. They then turned to Johnson's former mistress, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber, to testify that Johnson had paid her train fare from Pittsburgh to Chicago, for immoral purposes. An all-white jury convicted Johnson in 1913, and he skipped bail and fled the country. But in 1920 Johnson agreed to return and serve his sentence.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 C6

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