After winning the heavyweight championship in 1964, Cassius Clay publicly changed his name to Muhammad Ali and revealed that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. Always outspoken but widely liked, the champion’s name change turned Ali into one of the most recognizable and controversial figures of our time. Why was the name and religion change so threatening to a nation so supposedly supportive of religious freedom? What was the perception of the Nation of Islam before and after the announcement? What is the legacy of Ali for both black and white American athletes and society in general?
Ernest Allen Jr. is a professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. An author and filmmaker, he has written about Clarence Thomas, Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and the message and culture of hip hop among others.
Elliot Gorn, Ph.D. is an American Civilization and History Professor at Brown University and has previously taught at Purdue University, Miami University, and the University of Alabama. His extensive writing and research focuses on the US from early nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Mr. Gorn has written on cultural topics such as sports, crime, and labor organizing, paying particular attention to how class and gender shape cultural forms. His last publication titled Dillinger’s Wild Ride: The Year That Made America’s Public Enemy Number One, chronicles the last tumultuous year of Dillinger’s life.
Craig Robinson is the head coach of Brown University’s men’s basketball team. A two time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton University, Robinson was also awarded Ivy League Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year his first season at Brown. After graduating from Princeton University with a degree in sociology, Robinson was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and played a few seasons in the European Basketball League before beginning his coaching career. He came to Brown after six years at Northwestern University and a decade in the financial industry.
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