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The White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 (ch. 395, Template:USStat; codified as amended at Template:Usc), better known as the Mann Act after Congressman James Robert Mann, is a United States law which in its original form prohibited white slavery and the interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes”. Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, immorality, and human trafficking. While its ambiguous immorality language allowed selective prosecutions for many years, it was later amended by Congress to apply only to transport for the purpose of prostitution or illegal sexual acts.[1]


The most common use of the Mann Act was to prosecute men for having sex with underage women.[2] It was also used to harass others who had drawn the authorities' wrath for "immoral" behavior.

The first person prosecuted under the act was African-American heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson in a case with strong racist overtones.[3] He had had an interracial affair with a white prostitute named Lucille Cameron, but she refused to cooperate with the prosecution; Johnson later married her. Less than a month later he was re-arrested for having crossing a state line, before the Mann Act was passed, with Belle Schreiber, a prostitute who had left a brothel. She testified against him, and Johnson was convicted 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.

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.

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.[4]

In the late 1950s, Kid Cann, an 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.

As there is no federal U.S. law against polygamy as such,[5] except in territories,[6] the Mann Act has been used by federal officials wishing to penalize polygamy to prosecute various polygamist individuals known as Mormon fundamentalists.[5][7] (All U.S. states have anti-polygamy laws; in recent years state authorities have sometimes targeted organized polygamists.) The twin communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, Bountiful, British Columbia, and sites in Mexico[8] are historic locations of several Mormon Fundamentalist sects.[9] Mormon Fundamentalist Leaders and individuals[5] have been charged under Mann when "wives" are transported across the Utah-Arizona state line or the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders.[5][10]

Notable individuals arrested

Person Year Decision Notes
Tony Alamo 2008 Convicted [11]
Chuck Berry 1962 Convicted In January 1962 Berry was sentenced to three years in prison for offenses under the Mann Act when he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines.[12][13]
Farley Drew Caminetti 1913 Convicted He and Maury I. Diggs took their mistresses from Sacramento, California to Reno, Nevada. Their wives informed the police, and both men were arrested in Reno. The case, Caminetti v. United States, expanded Mann Act prosecutions from prostitution to non-commercial extramarital sex.[14]
Charlie Chaplin 1944 Acquitted Chaplin met Joan Barry, age 24, and signed her to a $75-a-week contract for "acting" and she became his mistress. By the summer of 1942 Chaplin let her contract expire. To send her home, Chaplin paid her train fare to New York which led to his arrest.[13][15]
Finis Dake 1937 Convicted In 1937, he was convicted of violating the Mann Act by willfully transporting 16-year-old Emma Barelli across the Wisconsin state line “for the purpose of debauchery and other immoral practices.” The May 27, 1936, issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that Dake registered at hotels in Waukegan, Bloomington, and East St. Louis with the girl under the name "Christian Anderson and wife". In order to avoid a jury trial and the possibility of being sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, Dake pled guilty. Subsequently, he served six months in the House of Corrections in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[16]
Rex Ingram 1949 Convicted Pleading guilty to the charge of transporting a teenage girl to New York for immoral purposes, he was sentenced to eighteen months in jail. He served just ten months of his sentence, but the incident had a serious impact on his career for the next six years.[17]
Jack Johnson 1912 Convicted [13][18]
Charles Manson 1960 Convicted Manson took two prostitutes from California to New Mexico to work.[19]
William I. Thomas 1918 Acquitted 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.[20]
Frank Lloyd Wright 1926 Charges dropped In October 1926, Wright and Olga Lazovich Hinzenburg were accused of violating the Mann Act and he was arrested in Minnetonka, Minnesota.[13]

Notable individuals investigated under the Act

Mann Act case decisions by the United States Supreme Court

  • Hoke v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Court held that Congress could not regulate prostitution per se, as that was strictly the province of the states. Congress could, however, regulate interstate travel for purposes of prostitution or “immoral purposes.”
  • Athanasaw v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Court decided that the law was not limited strictly to prostitution, but to “debauchery” as well.
  • Caminetti v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Court decided that the Mann Act applied not strictly to purposes of prostitution, but to other noncommercial consensual sexual liaisons. Thus consensual extramarital sex falls within the genre of “immoral sex.”
  • Gebardi v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Court held that the statutory intent was not to punish a woman's acquiescence; therefore, consent by the woman does not expose her to liability.
  • Cleveland v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Court decided that a person can be prosecuted under the Mann Act even when married to the woman if the marriage is polygamous. Thus polygamous marriage was determined to be an “immoral purpose.”
  • Bell v. United States, Template:Ussc. The Supreme Court decided that simultaneous transportation of two women across state lines constituted only one violation of the Mann Act, not two violations.

Congressional amendments to the law

In 1978, Congress updated the act's definition of "transportation" and added protections against commercial sexual exploitation for minors. It added a 1986 amendment which further protected minors and added protection for adult males. It replaced the ambiguous "debauchery" and "any other immoral purpose" with the more specific "any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense."[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Mann Act from Ken Burn's PBS series "Unforgiveable Blackness."
  2. Adams, Cecil. "The Straight Dope: Was there really such a thing as 'white slavery'?" Chicago Reader, Jan. 15, 1999. Available online.
  4. Alexander Dolinin. "What Happened to Sally Horner?: A Real-Life Source of Nabokov's Lolita". zembla. Art & Humanities Library of Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 2008-03-10. Humbert, the narrator, at one point explicitly refers to LaSalle.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Religion: Fundamentalists". Time. 3 April 1944.,9171,791418,00.html. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  6. see Edmunds Act and Edmunds–Tucker Act
  7. mann act prostitution Timeline 1943
  8. See Apostolic United Brethren, FLDS, Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times and Church of the Lamb of God as examples of sects with communities in Mexico.
  9. "Polygyny in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada". Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (
  10. Ken Driggs, "Who Shall Raise the Children? Vera Black and the Rights of Polygamous Utah Parents", Utah Historical Quarterly 60:27 (1992).
  11. Gambrell, John. "FBI: Evangelist Alamo arrested in child sex probe". AP via Yahoo News. Retrieved 2008-09-26.[dead link]
  12. "Chuck Berry". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Weiner, Eric (11 March 2008). "All Things Considered: The Long, Colorful History of the Mann Act". NPR. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  14. "Caminetti Guilty On Only One Count. Two Jurors Hold Out for Acquittal for Three Hours, but Finally Compromise". New York Times. September 6, 1913. Retrieved 2010-08-20. "Farley Drew Caminetti, son of the Commissioner General of Immigration, was found guilty late to-day on one count of the indictment charging him with violation of the Mann White Slave act."
  15. "Mann & Woman". Time. 3 April 1944.,9171,850389,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "Auburn-haired Joan Berry, 24, who wandered from her native Detroit to New York to Hollywood in pursuit of a theatrical career, became a Chaplin protegee in the summer of 1941. ... Chaplin signed her to a $75-a-week contract, began training her for a part in a projected picture. Two weeks after the contract was signed she became his mistress. ... By late summer of 1942 Chaplin had decided that she was unsuited for his movie. Her contract ended. ... Chaplin paid her train fare both ways but did not travel with her, did not pay her hotel bills. Asserted by the defense: she went at her own request; Chaplin had no "intent" to transport her for immoral purposes and did not consummate any such purpose in New York."
  16. Chambers, Pastor Joseph (19 September 1999). An Open Letter to Pastor Joseph Chambers, Author of an Article Entitled "Confused Charismatic Theology & the Dake's Bible". Charlotte, NC: Paw Creek Ministries. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  17. Eder, Bruce. "Rex Ingram Biography". All Movie Guide. AMC. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  18. Murray, Chris (5 July 2009). "Congress Looks to Pardon Boxing Great". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved 23 July 2009.[dead link]
  19. Bugliosi, Vincent with Gentry, Curt. Helter Skelter — The True Story of the Manson Murders 25th Anniversary Edition, W.W. Norton & Company, 1994. ISBN 0-393-08700-X. Pages 137-146
  20. "Thomas and Woman Freed. Evidence Sought for Prosecution under the Mann Act". New York Times. April 20, 1918. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  21. Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 272. ISBN 0393321282.
  22. Hakim, Danny; Rashbaum, William K. (10 March 2008). "Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-22. "Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, which are generally seen as state crimes. But the Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution. The four defendants charged in the case unsealed last week were all charged with that crime, along with several others."
  23. Anthony, Paul (28 January 2009). "FLDS leader invokes 5th in deposition: He pleads it more than 250 times, court transcript says.". San Angelo, Texas: San Angelo Standard-Times.,5143,705280971,00.html. Retrieved 24 July 2009.

Further reading

  • Langum, David J. (1994). Crossing over the line. Legislating Morality and the Mann Act. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226468801.

External links

de:Mann Act sk:Mannov zákon

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