Muhammad Ali: Jan 17, 1942-June 3, 2016
From Democracy Now! “Thousands gathered in Louisville, KY Friday for the funeral of Muhammad Ali, one of the world’s most iconic figures of the 20th century. He was considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, but he will also be remembered for his activism against racism and war. In 1966, Ali announced his refusal to fight in Vietnam. After his conscientious objector status request was denied in April 1967, he refused induction. Ali’s title was taken away from him, and he was sentenced to a five-year prison term. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1971 his conviction was finally reversed.
He died in Arizona after suffering for decades from Parkinson’s syndrome. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay in Louisville in 1942. He first gained fame in 1960 when he won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rome. He joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. After briefly being named Cassius X, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad renamed him Muhammad Ali. For years, many news outlets refused to refer to the boxer by his new name, instead using what Ali called his slave name. Muhammad Ali grew close to Malcolm X, and he became a vocal critic of U.S. actions at home and abroad.”
Howard Watkins’ remembrance: “On June 23, 1967, I attended an anti-Vietnam War rally near Century City in the West Los Angeles area. Among the dignitaries at the rally was Muhammad Ali. I was honored to be close enough to take this photograph of him as he stood on the back of a flatbed truck signing autographs. He truly was The Greatest in so many ways. Standing tall for his religious beliefs, the government’s treatment of him reminded me of another great advocate for peace and civil rights, Paul Robeson. While Muhammad Ali faced prison and was politically stripped of his boxing title, he, fortunately, was able to still return to the ring and reclaim his heavyweight boxing championship title. In his lifetime, Ali was the most recognized person in the world. I am thankful that he was chosen to light the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. His courage and integrity will long endure.”
To see more of Howard Watkins’ historic photos go to www.watkinsphotoarchive.com