Mann Act

The United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 (ch. 395, ; codified as amended at ) prohibited white slavery. It also banned the interstate transport of females for "immoral purposes." Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, immorality, and human trafficking. The act is better known as the Mann Act, after James Robert Mann, an American lawmaker.

According to historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "racially skewed enforcement of the Mann Act was just one chapter in the history of Jim Crow", the system of primarily state laws in the U.S. that enforced discrimination against African Americans.


The first person prosecuted under the act was heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, an African-American man. He had an affair with a white prostitute named Lucille Cameron. Johnson married Cameron so that she could not be made to testify against him. Belle Schreiber, a prostitute who at some point left a brothel and traveled with Johnson to another state, was next in line to testify against him. Johnson was prosecuted and sentenced to the maximum penalty of a year and a day in prison.

Pioneering sociologist William I. Thomas's academic career at the University of Chicago was irreversibly damaged after he was arrested under the act when caught in the company of one Mrs Granger, the wife of an army officer with the American forces in France. Thomas was acquitted at trial.

British film actor Charles Chaplin was prosecuted in 1944 by Federal authorities for Mann Act charges related to his involvement with actress Joan Barry. Chaplin was acquitted of the charges, but the trial permanently damaged his public image in the US. The uproar contributed to his departure for Switzerland in the early 1950s.

Canadian author Elizabeth Smart described being arrested under the Mann Act in 1940 when crossing a state border with her lover, the British poet George Barker, in her book By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. She memorably intertwined the callous police interrogation under this law with quotations about love from the Song of Songs.

In the late 1950s, Kid Cann, a notorious organized crime figure from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was prosecuted and convicted under the Mann Act after transporting a prostitute from Chicago to Minnesota. His conviction was later overturned on appeal. Even later, Kid Cann was prosecuted and convicted of offering a $25,000 bribe to a juror at his trial under the Mann Act.

The 1948 Mann Act prosecution of Frank LaSalle for abducting Florence Sally Horner is believed to have been an inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov in writing his novel Lolita. The book's protagonist Humbert Humbert, seeking to escape watchful eyes and bind the girl Dolores Haze more closely to him, also conducted a multi-state road trip during the course of the story.

Mann Act case decisions by the United States Supreme Court

Notable individuals prosecuted under the Act

Notable individuals investigated under the Act

External links

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