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Muhammad Ali

February 12, 2018
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), the deposed world heavyweight boxing champion, told an anti-war rally at the University of Chicago on May 11, 1967 that there is a difference between fighting in the ring and fighting in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), the deposed world heavyweight boxing champion, told an anti-war rally at the University of Chicago on May 11, 1967 that there is a difference between fighting in the ring and fighting in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Charles Harrity)

During the civil rights movement, dozens of black athletes took a stand, decrying the racial rhetoric that had enveloped the nation. Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who changed his name from Cassius Clay when he joined the Nation of Islam, put his career on the line when he took a stand against the Vietnam War and refused to serve because of his religious beliefs. He held true to his principles, several times refusing to accept a compromise from the government that would have ended his ordeal. He appealed the conviction, and he won vindication when the Supreme Court overturned it in 1971. “The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. ... I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.” _ Ali, in 1967, speaking on the injustices of the Vietnam War. There were many others who used their platform to send home a message.