THERE ARE LOTS OF BIOGRAPHIES OF JACK JOHNSON: Paul Beston can help you choose one.

My interest in Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champion, began when the Commission on Civil Rights did a report on Sex Trafficking.  I thought the report went conflated three very different things (actual sexual slavery, teenage runaway prostitution and ordinary adult prostitution). They are all problems, but they are different problems with different solutions (or, in the case of prostitution by consenting adults, no good solution).  The Commission ran them together to sensationalize the issue.

In my dissent, I touched on the Mann Act (also known as the “White-Slave Traffic Act”)–a ghastly little piece of federal legislation that allowed Americans to be imprisoned for transporting women across state lines “for immoral purposes.” (It still exists, but its text has been tightened up.)

Johnson, who filmmaker Ken Burns once described as “for more than thirteen years … the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth,” was prosecuted TWICE under the Mann Act.  His “crime” was that he was a successful and flamboyant black man who enjoyed the company of white women.  His case is a good example of how overbroad legislation can (and usually does) lead to prosecutorial abuse.