Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blast From The Past - Jack Johnson And The History of Interracial Marriage in America

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Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight boxer of the world back in the early 1900's. He had three white wives, and refused to date a black woman. He was arrested and jailed for being with these white women and was recommended to be lynched for marrying them.

Johnson was married three times. All of his wives were white, a fact that caused considerable controversy at the time. In January 1911 Johnson married Etta Terry Duryea. A Brooklyn socialite, their romantic involvement was turbulent. Beaten several times by Johnson and suffering from depression, she committed suicide in September 1912.

Less than three months later, on 4 December 1912, Johnson married Lucille Cameron, a young prostitute. After Johnson married Cameron, two ministers in the South recommended that Johnson be lynched. Cameron divorced him in 1924 on the grounds of infidelity. The next year Johnson married Irene Pineau; also white.

On October 18, 1912 Johnson was arrested on the grounds that his relationship with Lucille Cameron violated the Mann Act against "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes." Cameron, 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.

Johnson skipped bail, and left the country, joining Lucille in Montreal on June 25, before fleeing to France. For the next seven years, they lived in exile in Europe, South America and Mexico. Johnson returned to the U.S. on 20 July, 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 June 10, 1946, Johnson died in a car crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina, a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him because he was balck. He was taken to the closest black hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh but died before they could get there. He was 68 years old at the time of his death.

Via Wiki

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