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After almost an entire century, when Muhannad Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay to the later, he was not cheered after for his braveness or love for his country at the time. He openly protested the draft into the Vietnam war and felt that he wasn’t prepared to kill vietnamese people or to even fight for a country that rarely acknowledged that his culture existed, he felt that the African Americans in the United States were “barely valued” and he did not see the point in fighting for the country if they didn’t even fight for him, let alone value him. He said and I quote “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs? If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me. I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”
Several years later he was in Houston, Texas and he stood in line with many other very terrified men, who were also told to be drafted and he refused to answer to people calling him Cassius Clay. At this point he started having his boxing titles removed and his license to box was suspended in the city where he lived. At this time he did not know what other options he had for his life, he was only 25 at the time on April 28, 1967 when this arose.
Ali was very rarely praised at his time. He was often outcasted by sportswriters, and editors. One writer for Sports Illustrated even went so far as to call him a demagogue and an “apologist” for his “so called religion and his views on Vietnam do not even deserve rebuttal”. This same writer David Susskind went on to say that Ali was a disgrace to our country and that Muhammad was a fool and a “pawn”. A Lot of people thought he was being selfish, that he made money off the American public viewing his fights but he couldn’t fight for that same country? But if you think about it, Ali was a perfect person to look up to at the time. He was never violent with his protests. He never shouted at them from the rooftops. He said what he felt and was demonized for it. He just wanted to have people see him as something other than a cash cow and another body of a black man that would later be killed in that same war that many of his friends died in, in the future.
At one point in Cleveland, Ohio, fellow black athletes and activists assembled at the supreme court to show their support for Ali when he refused the draft. This ended up being called the Cleveland Summit, it took place in 1967 on June fourth. Jim Brown presided over the meeting between the fellow athletes and they all protested by being calm and fighting for what they thought the right thing to do was: not draft Ali.
After Ali changed his name and converted to the Nation of Islam, you could even say he was hated by black Americans almost as much as by white Americans so for all of these wonderful African American athletes coming together to fight him was a world altering feat.
I feel like even though Ali wasn’t loud with his opinion and he wasn’t over the top I think he still got his point across. Eventually he got his titles back and was able to box without turbulence. After all these years people seem to only think about him in a positive light. We can’t imagine what it would be like now if we had our classmates and friends drafted into the war. Of course we think Ali did the right thing? He fought for what he believed in and at the same time stood up for the black community stating that they were not respected by our country at the time and he was right. Of course they couldn’t see that then. I think when time passes and we look back on history it’s easy to pick out all the things that we did wrong and how odd it was that at one point we thought some things were okay, but now without a doubt we can see plain and simple that something was wrong or not. I think Ali was effective in his tactics, and I think he was brave for such a scary time in our country.
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