Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Muhammad Ali Replaced Malcolm X and Ushered in a New Era For America

By Derek Lavelle

Muhammad Ali looked to Malcolm X as his older spiritual brother. Ali began attending Muslim rallies and meetings after winning the Olympics in Rome in 1960, and after he won the coveted heavyweight boxing title in 1964.

At that time Malcolm X was the most outspoken and famous Islam member in America. His speeches and his debates on Face the Nation or Meet the Press made him known throughout America as a civil rights leader speaking against the unjust system of segregation.

Malcolm X also was known as the angriest black man in America. In 1964 Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and started a new organization to rival the Nation of Islam. Then in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York.

In 1967 Muhammad Ali now a Nation of Islam minister, refused induction into the U.S. Army on religious grounds. This was huge news because America was split over a war in Southeast Asia called Vietnam. The Vietnam War would divide America. College kids on college campuses all over America were marching against the draft that required all men of age 18 or older become registered to go to war. Ali's refusal to become inducted into the United States Army endeared him to millions of young white and black Americans that shared the same disdain for the war as he did. This began a new era in Civil Rights.

Whites and Blacks crossed racial lines and came together on a common cause for a common reason: to stand against an unjust war in Southeast Asia. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title because of his refusal to join the Army, but he became even bigger without his title. He became the "people's champion" and his face became the most recognizable face in the world. And while standing up against the war, Muhammad Ali also got in a few jabs against racism in America on behalf of the Nation of Islam.

The angry, finger pointing "white devil" image that Malcolm X represented was now replaced by a handsome, charismatic, fun-loving, Howard Cosell teasing Muhammad Ali that became the new image of the Nation of Islam. And America became a better country because of Muhammad Ali.

Derek Lavelle once a promising boxer learned the Nation of Islam story while in a boxing camp named after Muhammad Ali called M.A.P.S (Muhammad Ali Professional Sports). At MAPS in 1981 that Derek met older, original Nation of Islam men that had remained loyal to Elijah Muhammad during Malcolm's exodus.

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