“I didn’t know the man was my uncle until I was 12 years old, that’s how ashamed my family was of the fact that he went to prison. A pardon would erase the shame and the stigma and allow us to hold our heads up high because we know what a great man he was,” Haywood said in the video.
“I’m asking President Obama as the first black, African-American president to give my uncle a pardon,” she said. “A lot of times when he would come to his sister’s house or his mother’s house he had to sneak at night with his white girlfriend or his wife because of the times that they lived in.”
Authorities first targeted Johnson’s relationship with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife, but she refused to cooperate. They then turned to his former mistress, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber, to testify that Johnson had paid her train fare from Pittsburgh to Chicago, for immoral purposes.
Johnson skipped bail and fled the country following his conviction, but in 1920 he agreed to return and serve his sentence.
So far, the YouTube video hasn’t had too many hits. But Haywood and other relatives are determined to get a pardon to clear Johnson’s name.
“The color of your skin should not determine who you, or how you, love,” Haywood said in the video.