I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali

I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali

From Dave Zirin in The Nation

When Dr. Martin Luther King came out against the war in Vietnam in 1967, he was criticized by the mainstream press and his own advisors who told him to not focus on “foreign” policy. But Dr. King forged forward, and to justify his new stand, said publicly, “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”

 

When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, he said that Muhammad Ali made him feel like the walls were not there.

 

When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists on the medal stand in Mexico City, one of their demands was to “Restore Muhammad Ali’s title.” They called Ali “the warrior-saint of the Black Athlete’s Revolt.”

 

When Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee volunteers in Lowndes County, Alabama, launched an independent political party in 1965, their new group was the first to use the symbol of a black panther. Beneath the jungle cat’s black silhouette was a slogan straight from the champ: “WE Are the Greatest.”

A must read on the effect that Muhammad Ali had on people’s lives.