The Guardian reports: Time had sanitized the past. Portraits of Muhammad Ali’s activism in the wake of his death at 74 on Friday paint a picture of a fighter who helped change American culture with his refusal to be drafted into the US military but cannot explain how dire his situation actually was in 1967.
Much of America hated and feared him. He was facing five years in prison for saying no to the military. He was through as a fighter, stripped of his license by the New York State Athletic Board and facing a long court fight to overturn his conviction.
“Everyone turned on him,” fellow boxer George Foreman told CNN on Saturday. “I mean literally everyone. I hadn’t even gone into boxing yet. No one wanted to be in his presence. No one wanted to be his friend and he was dropped.”
This was one of the toughest parts of Ali’s life. As his backers in the Nation of Islam pushed him further into activism, much of white American shunned him. His passport had been taken away. He complained, at one point that: “I’m not allowed to work in America and I’m not allowed to leave America.”
And yet the three-year period – at the height of his sporting powers, from when he refused to step forward as draft officials in Houston called his name to 1971 when the supreme court overturned his conviction and five-year sentence – helped shape the Ali who would later become beloved. It became the time that he grew into his voice. [Continue reading…]