Cassius Clay was just a boxer. A boxer who captured the hearts of Americans while winning the 1960’s Olympic gold. Here was a young man at the age of 18, representing the greatest nation on the planet and making his people proud. He would again gain the fascination of America with his defeat of the anti-hero of the time Sonny Liston. However, this hero famed across mainstream America would not last, all it would take was a man finding himself. Introducing Muhammed Ali, another boxer. However, just a boxer was not simple enough. This man who used to be called Cassius Clay, now embodied the radical change that was beginning to creep it’s way into American society. This Ali rejected what he called his “slave name” and now accepted the religion of Islam, a slap to the face of those Christian Americans who rallied behind him when he was in Rome and when he defeated Sonny Liston. This man and his strange religion of Islam now captured America in a different sense, one that didn’t sit too well with many. He would soon become the anti-hero of some and at the different spectrum a hero to others. His life would parallel the decade. This man would represent a catalyst of change to the system and to society. It would take another battle to create this change though, not against any other burly man swinging his arms, but against a government and it’s war.
Ali’s battle with the US government really captured the epic social battle that was happening in America. New, some would say radical, themes and ideas had boomed in this decade of confusion and turbulence. Ali being a black Muslim made him the ideal foe to a government that at the time was conservative, Christian derived and backed. Ali was part of a the greater social movement of the 60’s, a social revolution that brought attention to new ideas, faiths, and nerve to question the government. Essentially, Ali was a poster child of a new emerging America, one that was tired of the conformist ideals of the 50’s. Ali’s battle was not just one for himself, but for the new generation of America that held the ideals of acceptance, difference, and change. Ali was not only the champion of boxing, but with his battle against the US government he would find himself becoming the champion of the people.
Young, brash and black, Ali would became a frightening symbol to the establishment when the country was in turmoil over civil rights and Vietnam.
To know who Muhammad Ali is and what he stands for, there needs to be an understanding of who Cassius Clay was. Cassius Clay symbolizes the young naïve man who is yet to understands his surroundings. True, Clay understood the concept of segregation being raised in the southern city of Louisville, but he didn’t really immerse himself in ridding of it. The events of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King didn’t really strike young Clay. The real shocker of what was really going on in America at the time involved the terrible event that happened in...