The great black hope

It was 99 years ago last month that boxer Jack Johnson humiliated the great white hope, Jim Jeffries, in the “Fight of the Century” in Reno on July 4, 1910.

For his temerity, as well as for failing to act like an assistant human—he did things like drive fast cars with white women seated next to him—Johnson was made the target of a federal grudge that hounded him into a courtroom on morals charges and into exile in Europe after his conviction. His reputation over the decades has been rehabilitated while the reputations of his tormenters have fallen. He became a hero to African-Americans and other citizens, notably to his spiritual successor Muhammad Ali.

On July 29, Congress gave final legislative approval to a resolution asking President Obama to give Johnson a posthumous pardon, an action Obama has indicated he will take. The measure was sponsored by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Peter King.