Blogs > Liberty and Power > Mann Act Injustice Revisted

Oct 8, 2004 2:58 pm


Mann Act Injustice Revisted



Ken Burns and others are urging Congress to overturn the 1913 conviction of boxer Jack Johnson under the Mann Act.

The Mann Act deserves more than a passing mention on this site. Enacted in 1910 during the"white slavery" hysteria, it made it a federal crime to transport women across state lines for"immoral purposes." The Mann Act played a critically important role in turning the FBI (before then a sleepy bureau in the DOJ) into a widely extended federal police agency. Mann Act investigations were the single largest item in the Bureau's budget before World War I and provided a precedent for using the Interstate Commerce Clause to apply to numerous other crimes.

In great part, the Feds singled out Johnson, who was known to consort openly with, and even marry, white women, as an example of what might befall a black man who too blantly crossed the sexual color line.

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