Pardon Politics: Is Trump Using Pardons To Court The Black Vote?

Pardon Politics: Is Trump Using Pardons To Court The Black Vote?


Karol Tymiński

Donald Trump seems to be on a pardon roll, especially when it comes to Black Americans. In May, he pardoned late boxing legend Jack Johnson. And after a meeting with Kim Kardashian over prison reform Trump commuted the  sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a prisoner serving a life sentence for non-violent drug offenses. There is talk that Trump may pardon Muhammad Ali, although according to Ali’s lawyer, Ron Tweel, no pardon would be needed.

“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971,” Tweel told NBC News. “There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.”

There is another pardon Trump may be considering. Close Trump associate Roger Stone is now encouraging the president to pardon posthumously the late Black activist Marcus Garvey.

In 1923, Garvey, the pan-African advocate and Black nationalist who pushed forward the “Back to Africa” movement, was convicted on federal charges of mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s Black Star Line, a shipping company.

Garvey’s son, Dr. Julius Garvey, started the “Justice4Garvey” campaign during the Barack Obama presidency but “dropped his advocacy efforts since Obama left office,” The Daily Beast reported.

“We have not pursued it with the current president or the Department of Justice,” Garvey told The Daily Beast. “I’m not sure of the direction [Trump] is going in with his pardons. It seems he is responding more to celebrities more than out of a reason of social justice. So I don’t know if my father fits in that context.”

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Stone said he wrote Trump “a year ago” urging him to pardon Garvey. Although there is no official word on when and if Trump would do this, Stone said in a Reddit forum in 2017 he wanted Trump to make pardon during Black History Month.

The timing begs the question is Trump using these pardons and potential pardons to attract more Black voters? Some think so.

“These actions, along with a more vocal push from Trump promoting what he calls his ‘success’ at gaining black support, are raising questions about whether he is trying to gain favor among African-Americans across the country, and whether he can succeed in that goal,” TK reported.

According to Dr. Zebulon Miletsky, assistant professor of Africana studies at Stony Brook University in New York, Trump is trying to send a message to Black voters. “He’s saying, ‘I’ll help you, but you do what I tell you,’” Miletsky told NBC News. “What he’s doing with the commutation of Alice Marie Johnson is he’s saying, ‘This is the behavior I‘m looking for.’”

And Trump credits Kim and Kanye West for helping with boost his image in the Black community. “Kanye West must have some power because you probably saw I doubled my African-American poll numbers. We went from 11 to 22 in one week,” Trump said on May 4.

“It gives him ammunition to show he isn’t racist. I think [there’s] political motivation,” Dr. Elwood Watson, professor of history, African-American studies and gender studies at East Tennessee State University, said.

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