Johnson-Jeffries Fight: Aftermath
After Jeffries went down in the 15th round and Johnson was declared the winner, onlookers began to shuffle out of the arena without incident. But race riots ensued elsewhere across the country as a result of Johnson’s victory. Historians are unsure of the total number of people that were injured or killed during the riots. As a result of the uprisings, many communities banned the fight film to squelch additional violence. In 1912, Congress would pass the Sims Act that restricted interstate trafficking of boxing films. The law was enacted as a direct result of Johnson’s fight with Jim Flynn, which took place in Las Vegas on July 4 of the same year.
In 1913, Johnson was tried and falsely convicted of violating the White Slave Traffic Act, also referred to as the Mann Act. The Act stated that it was a felony to transport across state lines “…any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery or any other immoral purpose.”
He fled the country but returned years later. Upon reentering the United States in 1920, Johnson willingly turned himself in and served a one year sentence in a federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Ironically, the prison’s superintendent at the time was Denver S. Dickerson who had been the governor of Nevada at the time of the Johnson-Jeffries match.
On June 10, 1946, Johnson died in an automobile accident while driving to see a Joe Louis fight.
Jack Johnson’s story is still very much in the public’s consciousness. Since 2004, Congress has experienced bipartisan efforts to have him pardoned. And, of course, this year we celebrate the Johnson-Jeffries centennial.