S.Con.Res 29: A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that John Arthur "Jack" Johnson should receive a posthumous pardon for the racially motivated conviction in 1913 that diminished the athletic, cultural, and historic significance of Jack Johnson

S.Con.Res 29

A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that John Arthur "Jack" Johnson should receive a posthumous pardon for the racially motivated conviction in 1913 that diminished the athletic, cultural, and historic significance of Jack Johnson

Sponsor
Sen. John McCain

Date
July 14, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

S. Con. Res. 29 is being considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on June 16, 2009. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which took no official action. S. Con. Res. 29 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on June 24, 2009.

Bill Summary

S. Con. Res. 29 resolves that it is the sense of Congress that Jack Johnson should receive a posthumous pardon-
 To expunge a racially motivated abuse of the prosecutorial authority of the federal Government from the annals of criminal justice in the United States; and
 In recognition of the athletic and cultural contributions of Jack Johnson to society.

Background

Mr. Johnson, the Heavyweight Champion Boxer of the world in the early 1900's, was twice the subject of federal investigation for violating the Mann Act-a law that outlawed the transportation of women across State lines for "any immoral purpose." In the first case, the woman involved, soon to become his second wife, refused to cooperate and the case fell apart. Less than a month later, Johnson was arrested again on similar charges. This time the woman, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber with whom he had been involved in 1909 and 1910, testified against him, and he was convicted by an all-white jury in June, 1913. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Supporters of the resolution believe that he was unfairly punished for traveling and having a consensual relationship with a white woman. Johnson fled the country initially but returned to the U.S. on July 20, 1920. He surrendered to federal agents at the Mexican border and was sent to the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth to serve his sentence. He was released on July 9, 1921.

In 2004, filmmaker Ken Burns initiated the movement for a pardon after producing a documentary about Jack Johnson's life. That year, the Senate approved S. Res 447, a similar version of this resolution, by unanimous consent.

Furthermore, in 2005, a bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senator McCain, wrote a letter to the President to request a pardon. The letter stated that a pardon "would be a strong and necessary symbol to the world of America's continuing resolve to live up to the noble ideals of freedom, opportunity and equal justice for all."

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis is not yet available.