Death and Legacy

As massive as a figure he was, Johnson’s career and lifetime could, of course, not last forever. Johnson died in a car crash in 1946, energetically and tragically, perhaps in the true spirit of the life that he lead. He did leave a lasting impact on the world and especially in the world of boxing. He was an American and the first black heavyweight boxing world champion, but he was not the new hero that the nation wanted. In fact, soon after his victory, America began searching for “A Great White Hope,” or a white, American boxer who could reclaim the title. To an even greater extreme, under these grueling circumstances, when a newer black boxer, Joe Louis, rose to popularity in the mid 1900s, it became important to his publicity that he maintain a reputation exactly opposite to Johnson’s in order to be favored by his audience.

Johnson and the Trump Administration.

President Trump pardoned Johnson for his crimes in 2017, a century after he was arrested under the Mann Act. This decision came as a surprise due to Trump’s very public opinions about race and sports in other areas, such as the NFL. See the actual signing of the posthumous pardon below.