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WASHINGTON -- Researching a documentary on Jack Johnson, filmmaker Ken Burns decided that racism, not justice, sent the first black heavyweight boxing champion to jail nearly a century ago.
Burns decided to seek a presidential pardon. On Tuesday, civil rights leaders and Sens. John McCain and Orrin Hatch joined him to announce the filing of legal papers with the Justice Department.
The petition argues that Johnson's 1913 conviction under the Mann Act, a law passed three years earlier that banned the interstate transport of women for immoral purposes, unfairly punished him for a consensual relationship with a white woman.