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Muhammad Ali gains support at colleges during career exile

CHAMP APPEALS DRAFT
GS
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AP File
Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali paused on the step and greeted a friend, March 17, 1966, as he arrived at the Veterans building to appeal his 1A draft classification. Behind him, dark coat and hat, is his attorney, Edward Jocko of New York.
About
Transcript
About

World heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali was at the top of his game in the 1960s. After Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War for religious reasons, he was arrested and convicted of draft evasion, facing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His boxing license was suspended, and he was barred from leaving the country. With his boxing career on hold and his future uncertain, the champ began speaking at college campuses around the country, including in Iowa City.

On the third episode of From the Archives, Muhammad Ali takes a stand against the war.

Jonathan Eig is the author of five books, including the biography Ali: A Life, which won the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing and was named The Times Sports Biography of the Year. Eig joined the episode to offer some context about Ali’s remarks and his legacy, both as an athlete and activist.

From the Archives was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Transcript

The following is a transcript of Muhammad Ali. It contains language that some may find offensive.
The transcript was produced using AI transcription software and edited by an IPR producer, and it may contain errors. Please listen to the corresponding audio before quoting in print.


Thank you very much. First of all, I like to say it's indeed an honor and a pleasure to come here and see so many people coming out just to see me. Usually, usually when I'm boxing, I expect to see you know, 20 times as much, but just coming to talk and to look at me — and especially the ex-champion too — that makes you feel good, you know.

I got this from Jackie Gleason, but mine is ... But I started out, as I mean, as the Father just said. I met him two years ago in Louisville, Kentucky. I was there some contract business getting ready for one of my annihilations, and he happened to be in town on some convention. And he got my address. He was real friendly. Something like father Gropic. Not as bold but he was — Anyway, he got my number and I got his number, and I lost his number because I get so many numbers and things and the laundry and every day when I go in, you know, I have 15, 20 cards that — I look at this, and tear it up, look at this, tear this one up. I get so many cards and things from people. And I lost his, but he did call me. I was staying at a hotel at the time before I bought my home and before I remarried. He called me and stayed in contact with me. And every once in a while he would be in Chicago on business, he would come over and stop and talk to me. One time he made a special trip just to talk to me. And a few days ago he called me and he said 'hello champ.' I said yes. 'This is,' he said 'this is the Father. Do you think you'll ever be around Davenport way?' I said' well, maybe one day.' 'Well if you could, could you please come through. We have a nice campus, and this is a small country town, and the people there don't get to see great champs like you. Could you come by? I'm sure we'd have a great turnout.' So I had nothing to do today. And many people say you awful witty — I'll run with Johnny Carson, you know, so he teaches me a lot of this fast talk. Anyway, I told him I could come on over. And I'm sorry to get here and see so many people, you know, and he didn't charge nothing to get in.

I told him I said 'Man, I'm not fighting like I used to be. They cut my money off. I can't work in the country. I can't leave the country, I got all kinds of expenses, some bills and lawyers' fees to pay, I could use a little money, you could get at least $1 a head, couldn't you?' He said 'well, champ we wouldn't want to do them like that.' So I'll just see him after the show.

Ali Clay
AP
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AP File
Ali reacts after the referee stopped the bout between Ali and European champ Karl Mildenberger, Sept 10, 1966, in Frankfurt, Germany. Ali won by technical knockout.

But what now, seriously, I'm here, at my own expense, it's just a few hours, our flight from Chicago. And I like getting out and meeting people. And I am a minister now of the Islamic religion, as taught by leading teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And it helps me meeting people and talking to people because in a few minutes, I would like to open this little time up for questioning period. Because there are many things you read about me in the newspapers you see on the television, and you hear that are of controversy and other things and sports questions and religious questions and racial problems that we're now having in the country, and the Vietnam crisis that I'm involved in. And many questions — I imagine that there are many questions and things you want to ask me. So in a few minutes, I'd like to stop and let you ask a few questions because I could stay here and talk. You know, me, I love to talk, I could talk for five hours. And then still there are many things that I have found out in my travels that go unanswered. So in a few minutes, I would like to let you ask a few questions. And somebody needs some cough syrup out here. Everybody's starting to cough all of a sudden you notice if one person — watch this (coughs).

Now what I was saying, I started out boxing. Many of you who have followed my reign, career, I started out boxing 14 years ago. And I didn't do too good in high school. Because I bullied my way through high school. I didn't have to work like most students. I was a good boxer from the age of 15 on up, and I would always bluff the skinniest boys in the class, you know the skinniest boys with the glasses, they're usually the smartest. And whenever I go to class, I would always set by the skinniest boy. And I would and when we would be getting tests, I would always say what's the answer to number six? Was he said 'I'm not going to tell you' I said 'I'll see you after school, what's the answer for number six?' And he said 'all right, all right. It's four.'

So anyway, I was the national Golden Glove champion. As you all remember, in '59 and '62, the National AAU champion '59 and '60. And then '61 I won the world Olympic gold medal, and I was in high school in Louisville, Kentucky, during this time, and I would bully my way through school. And I never dreamed that I would be the son of traction. I would create the image to speak before so many intelligent college students because after all, I barely got out of high school. And if you had told me a few years ago that you would be teaching college students I wouldn't believe it. I wouldn't have believed it. But not only did I run into boxing, but I ran into a few more things. A few more controversial things that made me different from the average athlete. For example, you couldn't — there's never been a time in history where a boxer has come to talk to people like you know, boxers usually don't talk. They asked him a question he'd say ' uh doy doy doy'.

No, in the past you were the last people boxers would come to talk to. But by me being unusual and different, And then so controversial. Well, I can talk on many subjects. I can talk hours on religion. I can talk hours on race problems, hours on any subject you really want to talk about. So this is why I say I like to, have found it to be successful to let the people ask questions. And questions usually lead into little lectures. And this way we can get around and give everybody a chance to ask me here while I am here live in living color.

You usually see me over the Mike Douglas show or the Joey Bishop show or the Merv Griffin show or the Johnny Carson show or Howard Cosell all over the Wide World of Sports. That's one man I can stand, I almost hit him one day on TV. I almost hit him. We were talking about something on television and he had the nerve look at me and say, 'You're not a dumb boy.' And I said 'And you're not as dumb as you look.' He said 'Champion who are you fighting next?' I said to 'you,' he said 'you might very well get your chance.' I said 'if you dreamed it, you'd apologize.' And after the show he almost, he almost slapped me after the show. Now he's really crazy. No, he really no, he really is. He almost grabbed me my collar said 'Boy, don't you talk to a white man like that on television.' Yeah, he told me that behind the doors. I walked away because the man — you know, I'd get 10 years I hit that little skinny man. I'd get 20 years they gave me five now, I'd get 20 if I hit that man.

But anyway, I like to open this little time up for questions. And who would like to ask me a question here I am...The fellow give them a chance way back there hello.

Well, for Sonny Liston to get the title back, he would have to whip me. Like, in the western days, the fastest gun alive was the fastest until somebody beat him. And the oldest way you could be the fastest gun alive was to outdraw the fastest gun alive.

All of the controversy is based around me, and everybody fighting for champions. There's only one real champion legalized physical champion and that's me. They might not recognize it on paper, but physically, I can work them all. And for Sonny to get the title back, he would have to beat me. And before he do that, he would rather go to Vietnam with a BB gun...That's right.
Yes, brother. Could you stand up, it's better when you stand... he's asked me why there's a lot of Afro American groups being organized the Black pride, pride and culture among Black people, cleanliness among Black people, unity among Black people dignity and do something for self. They're starting these tight movements, which is what they need. And he was saying that for the people who didn't hear the question, he was saying that many of these students and people all of a sudden want to be called 'Black,' where a few years ago they hated 'Black.' And he mentioned that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, our leader, who teaches us that by nature we are not negros. It's a name given to us during slavery. And he was askingme to explain why is it that they don't like the name 'negro' no more, as a whole, throughout the country, and as far as what we are taught by leader The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, The word Negro comes from a Greek word called nekro. and there's a word called nekro-ology. And ology means study of, and nekro means dead. Sea, N-E-K-R-O in English is N-E-G-R-O. The different letters are translatable, k g, and C in different languages, they sound different but mean the same. And the English version of the word is as pronounced as negro. N-E-G-RO, which means dead and we have been made during slavery, we were put in a dead condition, dead morally, dead mentally, dead spiritually, dead socially, dead economically, dead culturally, dead financially. So many of them don't like the word 'negro,' because the word — we print some 3 million newspapers a week, the Muslim newspaper, printed by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad — and he teaches us in this paper, he's got a national radio show, and although they are not followers of Elijah Muhammad, they take what they do understand and they use it. And this is one thing that he's been preaching that we are not negros. There's no country name negroes, and they have now adopted this saying, because for an example, Chinese are named after China, Cubans are named after Cuba. Puerto Ricans are named after Puerto Rico. Hawaiians are named after Hawaii. Mexicans are named after Mexico. Itallian are named after Italy. Israelies is named after Israel. Egyptians is named after Egypt. What country is named negros? See, there's no country, so after getting a knowledge of the truth and being educated and in 1968, they don't want to be called negros no more because they found out that this is a given, a stigma given to them by the old first slave masters. And now they are wanting to be called, like, you may say, this white man, this Indian may say 'I'm a red man,' a Chinese man may say 'I'm a yellow man.' So now they want to be called Black man, although they are not Black. We are not Black physically. But we're from the Black nations. And now the white man is not white. Chinese is not actually yellow. Indian is not actually red, but he's still a red man, a yellow man, a white man. So we want to be the Black man. So these truths have been taught to our people, and they are now waking up. And this is why they are changing.

More questions....I think the WBA elimination is good because it gives all of the boys a chance to make a living. They need, they they needed that elimination, even when I was fighting, because after I beat Zora Folley, even if I was still fighting now and wasn't catching the hell thatl I'm catchin, wouldn't be nobogy fighting no way. So this elimination is good, to fight to see who's good enough to have the honor to fight me later. Because they don't have nobody around to fight me. I'm not bragging, I'm not bragging. People say 'You bragging,are you conceited?' I'm not conceited, I'm convinced. Bragging means you think you have it when you don't.

What any more questions?...My future in boxing, well, right now it's dead right now. Because this Army problem is so serious, and so many people are dying in Vietnam, and the hostility is so great for anybody who won't go. So right now, it will be impossible for me to really get in the ring and expect to make a living off of the people whose sons and daughters in Vietnam, I understand that. I can understand how they may feel about me, but it's just too bad. They don't understand how serious I am about my religious beliefs. So right now, I don't think I'd have too much chances fighting until this war is over, until the judge in the high courts let me off and recognize me as a minister, which I am, or until I spend a few few days in jail and come back. So it's all up to the courts, if we get justice in the high courts, I might shuffle again.

Moderator: “Most frequently, and I'm sure you've heard a good deal, too, is why would the precedent already established for what boxers and athletes do in the service? You didn't simply take the induction, go in and do the exhibition boxing that would have been required of you, rather than to bring down so much difficulty on your own head?”

Well, I say this. That's a good question. And a lot of people ask me that, well a few government officials themselves told me just what you did, that I wouldn't do nothing, that I just box exhibitions, work or hospital or whatever I want. But there is one thing they must realize. Number one, first, I am a Muslim. I am a devout follower of the religion of Islam, which is believed in by some 750 million Muslims on earth — nothing new. I'm a believer in the Holy Qur'an, and every word in it. I've been following it ever since I joined in 1963.

One problem that I am — I'm going to say this so you understand what I'm talking about. I had to divorce the prettiest, one the prettiest Black women in the country because she wouldn't conform to the faith like she promised, and I won the apeal, I won the decision in Miami because my wife wouldn't conform to the Islamic faith like she promised. And I was granted a divorce. Well, I've been having religious problems, if you notice, even before the draft came up, so this is not something they can use to say that I'm doing it just because I don't want to go.

Now, I have — I was formerly backed by 10 white millionaires of Louisville, Kentucky. They had a press conference not long before our contract expired, and they told the press that I have turned down $10,800,000 that I could have in movies, commercials, advertisements.endorsements and rock and roll records. And $10,800,000 that I could have kept, which about 4 million would have been mine after taxes. I couldn't take it because of my religious, strict religious beliefs. Then the draft is another thing coming up against my religious beliefs. We are taught in the Holy Quran that we who declare ourselves to be righteous Muslims do not take part in no wars and no way, fashion, or form that take lives of other humans.

Well, if I was boxing exhibitions, I would be entertaining the troops. If I was in a hospital, I'd be doing something. So this was written before I was born, there's nothing that I'm doing, this was written thousands of years before I was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942. January 17, Monday morning, in the General Hospital, this was written way before I was born. So I'm not like some for example, I'm not using these boys as an excuse but I don't know why it's so much hell on me. Now, I'm not going around saying I got a bad knee, I can go to them and my knee is bad. But still, I'm out somewhere is playing ball. I'm not going around saying I got to take care of my mama, and I got $10 million. I'm not taking my draft card and burning it up right on the White House steps. I haven't done nothing like that. But yet, I'm the scapegoat. I'm the bad one out of a whole bunch. I haven't ran to Canada like thousands of real citizens are doing. But now I'm the bad one. My grounds are legal. I'm a Muslim. My leader Elijah Muhammad is the most powerfulist Black man has ever been on American scene. He has ordained me. We are authorized religion. We even teach in the prisons in America. We have temples and mosques meetings in prisons. I have some 750,000 followers that are ministers from coast to coast. Now who is to say that I'm not a minister now? Who is it to throw me in jail and say I'm not a minister? If Pope Paul sent this — if this man was in Russia, and Pope Paul and Russia had a war, and this means I can't take parts of no wars. 'This is against my religion.' And they said, 'Well, we don't know if you're a priest or not. And Pope Paul wrote a letter said in the name of 600 million Christians, this man Father Couch is my minister from Pope Paul. Now who is it to say he's not a minister who's gonna judge him? I am a Muslim. I'm a devout follower of Islamic religion. My spiritual leader and teachings recognized in America and the world is Elijah Muhammad. I'm waiting five days a week at his dinner table in Chicago. He's teaching me now. Now who is the American government, or anybody, to put me in jail now and say I'm not a minister? Who is to say I'm not sincere?

Ali Hofheinz
ED KOLENOVSKY/AP
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AP
Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali ponders a question during his news conference after his arrival in Houston, Jan. 11, 1967. Ali, who is now 1-A after he lost his bid to be classified as a conscientious objector, had been notified of the decision before the news conference. He is scheduled to take on Ernie Terrell Feb. 6 to clear up the heavyweight title difference. At right is Judge Roy Hofheinz. Man at left is unidentified. (AP Photo/Ed Kolenovsky)

The problem is this: Is he sincere? Because many boys pretend to be ministers. Some take the mother's pocketbook to the draft board (effeminate tone) 'Oh, what can I join?' and they check his record and find out he wasn't a sissy yesterday, but he's a sissy today, just to get that dime in. So if you check my record, you'll find out that I'm sincere. And if you check everybody who knows just the mere fact of me giving up the heavyweight championship with the whole world, giving up millions of dollars in commercials, advertisements, endorsements and might be in a jail suffering loneliness and confinement for five long years. Which to me — if I'm not sincere I'm crazy. Now what do I have to do to be sincere? So I'm not on trial, justice is own trial, you understand?

Any more questions? Ask some of your questions. I didn't mean to take so long, but I told you I warned you before that your questions will lead in the lectures didn't I? There's a brother, a Muslim brother here from — where you're from Baghdad? Salaam alaykum....

Well he was just saying that ever since my image, ever since the rejection of the draft, and all of the controversial issues that have came up, that my image in Asia and Africa, all of the Muslim countries is so great and heroic, but in America among the magazines and the press, it's not too good, and he's right. It's not the masses of the American people, Black or white that's against me for my stand. It's just a few boxing commissioners. And it's just a few men who are running for certain offices in certain states that have been kicking me out, hoping to win the people, and to make them think that they are good men to vote for. Like this turnout for an example — what you see here is the same everywhere I go. Every city in America, every village is the same. So it's not the people that's on me. But it's just a certain few boxing promoters who's been pressured by high officials and government, and naturally they're not going on, you know, buck government officials just for me, so this is wha'st stopping it. It's just a few people, it's not the whole power structure. And this is one reason they won't let me go to Japan to fight. I tried to get permission to go to Japan. And the prosecuting attorney came in from Washington and said, 'George, we do not — Washington — do not want this man to leave the country, because he is too well followed and liked in places like Japan, which is anti-American in many things. And Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and my mail is so great, from — where you from Baghdad?... Muslim countries — Iraq — countries such as yours, I have all kind of government invitations by the presidents of your country...

Yeah, I have government, I have 15 invitations from government. And this is one reason they wouldn't let me leave the country. Because the prosecuting attorney just said that my penance is so serious. Until this five years in prison and $10,000 fine, he said is enough to make a man not want to come back. Now I wouldn't leave the country and leave my people in their struggle. And my mother and father, my brother, I'd be a fool to leave the country just for a few years in prison. I wouldn't do that. I have nothing over there. My people's struggle is here. And just for years at the most in prison, I would be but 29 when I got out. No way. So I'm not going to exile myself from this country. Just for a little ol prison term, I'd be a coward. And the image that I have, that's the last thing I want to be is a coward. Everything I do is courageous and bold. I'd be leaving a country that'd I kill it all. So I believe that they know that I won't leave the country. But the idea is just to dry me up financially hoping that I weaken, but I won't. If I go raggedy I won't. But they say that the reason is, I'm they said that the exact words he said he said George, there are 600 million Muslims who would gladly take this man here. He's been made an honorary citizen of all of these countries. And if he leaves, he could easily be a millionaire fugitive. And on these grounds, we don't want him to leave the country. So when you say that I'm popular in Asia and Africa, you're right and not only Asia and Africa, but all Europe, because not only are Asia and Africa and Vietnam, even, all-white Europe is against it. Even Canada. So nobody is against me from my religious beliefs. Just a few people here in power this holding up the whole show. that's all. That was another lecture, wasn't it?...

If if I met Joe Lewis — all the computer machine they have, all the fighters fighting each otherThey have all — what he asked to me is would I make a prediction on my fight if I fight Joe Louis? See they have a computer machine — see they couldn't get me whooped in the ring and they gonna get me whooped by a machine! They have a computer machine to compare all of the great fighters in the history from, John L. Sullivan, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Max schmeling, myself, all of us. And they are imagining that these fellows fall, I beat Max Schmeling not long ago, beat him up pretty bad. They were right. And uh, they are taking the weak points, the good points, the hidden power of each man on, figuring out how he jabbed, how he hooked, what kind of right hand did he have, and this machine is pretty accurate. They imagined that we fall. So he asked me what would I do? What do I predict if I fall Joe Louis. and these computers machines you hear him over the radio. So here's how me and john lewis will sound over your radio: Ding! Ali comes out to meet Louis. But Louis starts to retreat. If Louis goes back an inch farther, he'll wind up in a ringside seat! Ali swings on the left, Ali swings on the right. Look at the kid carry the fight. Louis keeps backing, but there's not enough room. It's a matter of time. Ali lowers the boom. Now Ali lands on the right! What a beautiful swing and the punch and leaves Lewis clean out of the ring!

Lewis is still rising, and the referee wears a frown, for he can start counting until Lewis comes down. Now Louis disappears from view. The crowd is getting frantic. But our radar stations have picked him up. He somewheres over the Atlantic. Who would have thought when they came to the fight, that they would witness the launch of a colored satellite?...

Muhammad Ali 1966
Anonymous/AP
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AP
While Illinois Athletic Commission listened, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali speaks, Feb. 25, 1966 in Chicago. He attended commission meeting as a result of Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner?s request that the commission members reconsider permission for Clay to defend title later this month. Ali had criticized his imminent army draft. (AP Photo)

I don't know. I don't know what my role is in this. He asked me what do I think my role is, or my future role in the civil rights movement. Number one, we don't take part in what you call 'civil rights.' We have nothing against people who fight for what they call civil rights. See, we have like 20 to 25 million people here who are struggling, struggling for freedom, justice and equality. And our approaches are different. The same in war, take Vietnam for an example. One man is fighting the war from the air. One man is on the land fighting. One man is under the water in a submarine. One man is on top of the water. But they all still fighting the same common enemy they say. Are they all still... but they have different approaches.

Now you have the corps, Urban League, axenic, Muslim, NAACP, this and that. And they all have different reasons. One man believes that inner-marriage is the solution and over a period of years, everybody be white, this is what he want to do. And we don't want to do that. So we can't follow his movement. Another man believes in open housing, better schooling with whites, marrying whites, living with whites, eating with whites, riding with whites, he think that's the solution. We don't think that's a solution. One man believed to get some matches and some gasoline bombs and burn the town down we don't believe that's solution. One man believes that good education, education, education is the solution. We don't believe that because I know some educated fools. They got nothing but education of everybody else for themselves. And the're walking blind men, all education and no knowledge of their own self they're fools.

So we not naming which movements represent these things. But this is the mixture, mixture of the ideals, this is with our people. Now, number one, what we believe our program — the solution to our problem, and this is the part that I play, or may say that I would like to play — knowledge of self and kind, a man must have before he can be free. I know what direction he's going in. For an example. Here comes a man. 'How you doing, buddy?' 'Fine.' 'What's your name? Who are you? Where are you going?' 'I don't know.' 'Where did you come from?' 'I don't know.' 'Who's your mother? Who's your father? What's your address?' 'I don't know.' He's alive physically,but mentally, he's got amnesia.

So we have been made during slavery 22 million people with amnesia. So we believe that this man, who's called a negro, must be woken up to the time he's living in, tothe true nature and to what he must do before others respect him. This is the solution. Not begging whites to clean up the ghetto, and demonstrating because the government and the mayor don't clean up the ghetto, but the ghetto was not in the neighborhood. The ghetto was in the people. The people made the ghetto, the ghetto don't make the people, people make the ghetto, and the condition of the 22 million people, they as a whole, if they were given a full hundred billion dollar housing project, it'd be a hole in a year and six months.

So the process is teaching the people, and my role, answering your question, is to preach the truth to them that Elijah Muhammad is teaching them that will make them better citizens in America and will take them off of your back. And that truth is that they don't know the knowledge of themselves. For an example we call ourselves negros. Well, why are we called negros? Chinese are named after China, as I just said, all people named after country. We don't know who we are. If I said we don't have our names, Cassius Clay was American. Why if I said here comes Mr. Chang Chang through that door, you don't have to look you know that's a China man. If I said it comes Mr. Krewshef, you know that's a Russian. If I say here comes Mr. La Moomba, you know he's Africa. Here comes Mr. Koseguin, you know he's a Russian. Here comes Morningstar Rolling Thunder. You know, that's Indian. If I said here comes to Washington, Mr. Clay, you don't know who he is, white or colored until you see him. So here's 22 million people who don't have their names. And think that these are their names. There's 22 million people who's been brainwashed to love white and actually hate themselves so badly, and been brainwashed to love white, they wear you to death — chase your daughter, run you outta your neighborhood, run the out of you school, you're so jworried. Because he's been taught, made like that. Because when he was a little bit of boy, he was told that Santa Claus brought him his toys. He saw a white man. Unconsciously, this was brainwashing him. Then he got a little older, he went to church. He saw Jesus: a white man, long blonde and blue. He looked at all angels, all white angels, no colored angels, all white angels. I guess the colored angels was in the kitchen preparing to milk and honey.

So he don't see, no I'm explaining your question. So he don't see he don't see no colored angels. He looked at the Lord's Supper. He see all white. He looked at Tarzan the king of the jungle. Oh. All, white. Beating up all the Africans. Oh, he's getting scared now. Then you turn around and he looked at Miss America, White. Miss Universe, White. Miss World, White. He look at the president. A White House. He looked at the cowboy picture, the good guy on the white horse. He looked at the, go to grocery store, he see the angel food cake is the white cake but the devil's food cake is a chocolate cake. So he hates Black. Right there, unconsciously, is getting to hate black. He don't want own his own. Hate yourself. Everything you see of authority and goodness is white. He was taught in church that he can't go to heaven until he's washed in lamb blood till he's white as snow. And when he get to Heaven he walking on a milky white way. He looked at a TV cartoon the little ugly duckling, he was black and the little white ducks walked in the front, and a little black duck caught all the hell. He saw the black cat was the bad luck. So he's been brainwashed. See. He looked at TV commercials, White Owl cigars. White Swans soap. Cane White soap. White Cloud tissue paper. White rain hair mist. White tornado. Oh, I've never seen white tornado. Cause they're usually black you know? Yeah, they usually black. Yeah, white plus toothpaste, white rain herons. Then he look u,p ands says, 'master you sure got a good memory. You don't forget nothing. You got a memory like a white elephant.' That's a saying they have, you know. So there you have this a Franklin-stein It was created during the 300 years of slavery, taught just what the master want him to know. Now this backfired on you. So my role is the teaching of truth. So he'll love black soil, respect his own women, clean up his own neighborhood, get him a farm, grow his own food, build his own school, build his own house. It's human nature for tigers to be with tigers, lions with lions, monkeys with monkeys, crocodiles with crocodiles, alligators with alligators, red ants with the red ants, black ants with The black and blue birds are going this way, in the red birds are going this way.

They get all mixed up. They all come out going their own way. You notice, you see the pigeon with the pigeon, the eagle with the eagle. Everything is with their own. Chinese eat with chopsticks. They like chopsticks. Indians like Indian food, Mexicans like Mexican food, everybody's got their own clothing, their own dance. Whites like their culture, like their type of living, like talk their talk, talk their slang. Blacks have their type food, and the two just won't really mix. It's against nature. Not that we hate one another. It's against nature, human nature, to love your own and want to be yourself, want to marry your own, every man wants a son that looks like him. So what I'm saying is that this is my role, to teach to them the truth and why it's never taught to them. And then when they hear, they don't integrate no more. He want to marry his own woman. He's not forcing itself in your restaurant no more. He's getting him a restaurant. He not begging you to come in your neighborhood. He want to get him a good, clean neighborhood. That's my role. So I don't know if he called it civil rights or what, but this is what we preach....

She asked me do I care to demonstrate the shuffle in slow motion? It's impossible to demonstrate the shuffle in slow motion. It's too fast. Slow Motion cameras don't even detect the speed. Yeah, but uh, I don't feel like doing it right now. Maybe after we through talking. I want to keep my mind in the mood, very serious mood. Happy, gay. And we'll clown later. But right now, I want to keep going, because they have a few questions they want to ask. And did you ask one yet? Stand up and talk loud.

Well, yes, we were gonna fight Wilt Chamberlain.He asked me was there any possibility that I was going to fight Wilt Chamerlain? Oh, that's right. I thought it was a joke myself, for real. We won't — you see it on Wide World of Sports. I was there with Howard Cosell again. And and he reminds me of, who do he look like? Franklenstien? You know the Count Dracula? somebody you know, he's got that weird look, you know, you see the effort. This fellow who created Frankenstein. You know he favor him. I went to the show. I thought it was a joke. But it was serious. Chamberlain was serious. And he did want me to fight. And I told him before I fight him You have to cut the beard. Oh, because I'm not fight no billy goat. Remember? Somebody said could you describe a fight between you and I said it wouldn't last long. He said what would happen? 'crack crack, crack, crack, timber!' That's all...

(other boxer) as a person, seems to be a he means right. He's too humble. He's too good hearted. Every time you knock a man down, he want to pick him up and kiss him and he feels so sorry. And he sees shamefully he goes out and puts on beards and he hide when he lose and he's real meek and he talks at the wrong time, you know, out of all of the people to attack he jumped on me about my name, about my religion, made on international fool out of himself and got a good whipping behind it. And and he's a he's a little confused. He's mixed up. He means right but he — I don't know what's wrong with him. But he was a pretty good boxer but he's he's been taken too many beatings now. But out of the ring, he's a nice quiet, humble, good. What you may say good, real, Catholic, real good Christian, realreligious. And he's confused and he's mixed up acting and he's disturbed act and he's an individual. He's in a world of his own....

huh?

Yeah. That's the trouble, as that's what I applied for, when I should have put the ministry down. And this is what they were reluctant about when I changed it. I was the minister at the time. I was doing the work of a minister preaching, the teaching of the religion. And my leader had authorized me, but I wasn't being introduced as Minister but I was. I was a minister all the time and didn't know it. And then my other lawyer, Mr. Hayden Covington, came in and said you are a minister, which I was, but I didn't know when I first put that down. I didn't have this in mind, and then we changed it but that's what I put down first, conscientious objector.

You over here in the yellow shirt with the glasses, the skinny boy with glasses....

What I think of the Johnson administration? I couldn't even start talking about that no way, because we don't take no part in politics. I don't know nothing about politics. We've no way to be victorious in politics. They change the law every minute. They write it when they want, they got books I've never seen, never will see and there's no salvation in politics for me.

No, I don't um, that's getin political talk, to question the legality of the war. I don't take part in no wars, I don't care. If we jumped up and fought Russia tomorrow, jumped up and fought Africa, jumped up and fought Israel, jumped up and fought Mexico. We don't take part in no wars that take the lives of humans unless it's a holy war, declared by Allah, God Himself, or His Messenger, his prophet that day. And this is not going on. So it's not just Vietnam, no war.

Social Change Athletes Roles
AP
/
AP File
In this March 1, 1964, photo, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, right, is shown with Black Muslim leader Malcolm X outside the Trans-Lux Newsreel Theater in New York. They had just watched a screening of films on Ali's title fight with Sonny Liston in Miami Beach.

Now, I can't break away from the Muslim religion, because if I did, where would I go? To Martin Luther King to get my head whipped around Alabama and Georgia? Why would I want to go to break away from something that's made me so great and so respected and so powerful worldwide? Here's a man here from Baghdad that says his president, millions of his people are dying to see me. They never recognize integrators or Christians or Negroes in these countries. They never recognize negros in Egypt, Asia, Africa, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. I've sat it to a table with these presidents had dinner with them, hugged them, kissed them, they are Muslims, like me, they have names like Muhammad Ali like me. If I break away from this, where would I go? This is the image that the press has played up to make it look like I don't know what I'm doing. They don't want to give my leader, Elijah Muhammad, of my religion to credit for converting a big man like me in sports. This is too much honor to it. So they want to make it look like I want to break away. Malcolm X didn't break away. Malcolm X was put out by the boss, Malcolm X was put out three times, and the last time he stayed out because he wanted to start his own violent movement. But Malcolm X made a remark about Kennedy being killed, which was bad. Kennedy was loved by the whites and Blacks. He was a good president for the country. And when that fool jumped up and remarked, made a remark praising Kennedy's death, he put the life of every Muslim out there walking on the street on the line. So Elijah Muhammad had to let the world know that Malcolm X was speaking and representing himself, and not him and set him down and expelled him for nine months. And during that nine months time, he came into my house in Florida, said he wants to start his own movement. He will still be with Elijah Muhammad, but he wants to get some rifles and be violent because he's moving too slow. And he preached by the sword, he died by the sword. So he didn't get rubbed out, as you say it, because he left. He didn't leave, he got put out. You don't leave Elijah Muhammad. I can't leave Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad is a bonafide leader. He's been here 36 years, no one will challenge him or tackle nothing. He say he prints 4 million newspapers a week. He's got Mosque University schools throughout the country. He's, he's not recognized throughout the whole Eastern world. He made me, he named me Muhammad Ali. He taught me that I was the greatest. He taught me everything that I know. Now who am I to judge everything that I'm saying now is intelligent? We're talking, we're having a nice discussion. Many people are shocked here, and the truth told so plain as far as our problem is concerned, I got all of this from Elijah Muhammad. Now if I break away from Elijah Muhammad, where am I gonna go? Where am I gonna go? Who am I going to? What? Why am I going to this better than his? I'm respected by whites and Blacks throughout the country and the world. I have 29 government invitations to Muslim countries. If I left Elijah Muhammad, they can't accept me no more.

So where am I gonna go? Go out there and march somewhere and get my head whooped. Trying to live beside somebody that hates me, going to a restaurant where they might poison me, is that where I'm gonna go? Where will I go if I leave Elijah Muhammad? Nowhere but to hell. So what do you mean? I ain't going nowhere. And I hope I don't go nowhere. I hope he don't put me out because he's awful powerful with us. You understand? So I'm not going nowhere. Don't want to go nowhere, but get closer to him, because he's known as a man for Black people to follow, who's teaching them some truth that they never heard. Yes, sir.

Well, I'm not against no policy in Vietnam. I didn't said nothing about that. I'm not, I'm not for no war. See, what would I say if the war ended tomorrow and they went to war with Germany? Then what's my excuse? If I'm against Vietnam? I can make up another excuse. I'm for no war. So what I'm saying is that the demonstrations, I don't, I don't have nothing to say about that, because the people who will get their head beats till the blood run down them, they are serious. And if they are serious, then I'm with them, if they believe they're right, but I don't have no comment one way or another, you understand? Ain't gonna trap me in no politics. I think I'm too smart. Yeah?...

Well, I would think that what you, your own white American government will admit that Israel attacked Egypt first. So you can say that we tried — they were defending themselves, you'll see you're trapped yourself. You will never catch a Muslim country attack. And nobody, not not Muslims. And Israel did — they did a lot of bullet talk over there in Egypt before. But Israel was the actual attackers, this is what the press and the government itself admit. So — And plus, this, to them is a holy war. This is two countries who's been having differences for the past 2000 years, I'd imagine. And this is that internal problem. I'm not there. I'm not a so called citizen of the country and their troubles. I don't understand, I'm way over in America with my problems. God protects those who help themselves, self preservation, first law of nature. We are striving, for our freedom, justice and equality in America, not South Vietnam, not Egypt, Israel. So we are wrapped up in our program here. And they are told not to take part in wars, but they have something in the religion where that if there are countries attacked, see, we are taught not to be the aggressor, but defend ourselves if attacked, so they have reasons for what they did, and they were attacked. So I can't comment on why they fight, because I don't follow the Islamic teachings that's taught there. We follow the same teaching, but our approach is different. So the approach of the teaching. the basics is the same. So I was in my apartment in Chicago asleep when it broke out, so I can't be considered guilty because they were fighting because they have their own problems, Their own reason it was their whole country been attacked. Yeah. And if America was attacked tomorrow, I'd fight, if it was attacked, if it's for my own good, I gotta fight....

I understand. Right....What is to — it's too bad white men don't feel that way about him. You're right, we get back off the boat. He says to the white man. When he get back from Vietnam. He was saying to me that the Negro can say, I went to Vietnam I fought, I have one eye. I have no arm. I'm not Black. I'm not white. I'm an American. I'm a man. That's what the Negro can say. The Negroes, right. It'ss just too bad to white man don't feel that way too. Cuz he wouldn't have to come over here and get his head booked just for demonstrating. He wouldn't have to come over and get shot down with tanks and machine guns. Not only did he fight in Vietnam, but he could say I fought in China to help preserve America. I fought in Germany to help preserve America. I fought in Korea to help preserve America. I worked before the war started 310 long years 16 hours a day without a pay day. I was just your little servant, turned my cheek. You lynched me, you burned me, you tarred and feathered me, you raped my women, you enslaved me from day to day, treat us worse than you treated animals. Communists go where I can't go, Africans go where I can't go. We go to church every Sunday. We are so humble and meek, but yet and still, you still mistreat us today worse than you did long ago, when we start demonstrating, he can say that too. But it's just too bad. It's the power structure that don't meet a little Negro halfway, and show some goodness for him too. Say, 'well, slave, you done work and plow my fields, you done built America. So until you have enabled us to have 50 of the richest states on the planet, little slave, you done walked, found all of my water to preserve this land. Little slave, I done owe you for 310 years of free labor and lynchin. We got 50 states now that we don't need you no more little slave. Take five of the states, now that you are doctors and lawyers, and nurses, and carpenters, and mechanics, and this and that, go over here now and build your government and be ready to grow your own food. So you can be industrious and respected to your qualifications and education for self independent slave. We don't need you no more to pick cotton, because we got machines doing the work of 20,000 of you in one day. And we don't want you to walking the streets hungry and out of work. And then if you steal something, we shoot you and kill you. Little slave, you're free now going over and build your home.' Whites don't — at least you could do that. Not just say, 'well, you can have a job now. You can now marry my daughter, or you can live in my neighborhood, or you can eat in my restaurant, or I'll make you the mayor of the city. I'll let you be beside the President when he speak. I'll let you stand beside the Pope Paul when he lecture.' That ain't nothing solid. That's like taking a man who built a bigger house for you. And then when the work is over, give him a little old biscuit and a little strangly a chicken bone. And say I'll treat you better. There's a job. But what's the job? We was brought here, the sole purpose of bringing Black people here was 'give him a job.' And today we've been catching so much hell, until we happy to get a job. What in the devil is a job? So what I'm saying is when that little negro get off the ship, he could see all of this, see. If he was wise he could talk more and say, 'I've been to Vietnam.' He could put you on a whole lot of spots. But he's still dead. He fought, but he really don't know why he fought. He don't know who he was shooting. The man he was shooting didn't call him nigga, the man he was shooting didn't put dogs on him and lynch his mom and rape him for 400 years. He just shot and he was brown too, his own Asiatic brother. He just shot him up. And he come home. And he's not free to shoot for hisself. You understand? So we right? He could say that and more.

Ali
Ed Kolenovsky/AP
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AP File
In this June 19, 1967 file photo, Ali has a "no comment" as he is confronted by newsmen as he leaves the Federal Building in Houston during a recess in his trial for refusing induction to the army.

Yes, sir....Well, if I was in prison, if I did lose my case, and go to prison, number one, all I would want is some literature, a pen and some paper. And I just look at myself and say, 'Well, I'm going to be in school for five years.' And every day I'll study, study the Holy Qur'an, study the Bible, study all of the prayers that I have to learn. I study all of that. And I study everything that Elijah Muhammad teach, read his newspapers every week, like Malcolm X, see Malcolm X, see I'm going to the same school Malcolm X went to. I'm not quite as wise as he was, because he was at it eight years. I've only been at it four years. But Malcolm X got smart in jail. See, people get real brainy in jail. And when I come out of jail, Oh, you think oooh boy, I'll be smarter than I am now. Yeah, I'll just study, study, study, study, study. And when I come out, go right to his country, and be hailed by millions. I break right to Egypt, right to Africa, right to Sudan. I'll be a more of a hero. I'll be more bigger for standing up and given up millions of dollars? See Black people in America who get rich are known for turning white after they get rich. They are known for selling out to people, being traiters and what we call Uncle Toms. I am the first one who have actually turned down millions for the masses of his people's freedom, and then suffer behind it too. I'll have to come out bigger than I am now. So when I come out of jail, I'll be nothing but a traveling minister. And I'll do nothing but travel the world, meeting all of the kings and the Presidents waiting o n me, and I'll be respected, loved more by my people for what I'm doing. So in the present I will do nothing but study. And what will I think about America? No more than I do now, the same as I do now. It can't change. So what I'm saying if I go, it's just five years. Everybody suffers for what they believe. Boys in Vietnam are getting killed. I won't be in that bad of shape. We died in all the wars but what we believe, so I'm gonna suffer for what I believe. Ain't nothing wrong with that. Jesus went to jail, Moses, all of God's prophets went to jail. They all caught hell. How can a man leave a great name in history if God don't test them? If I say how many of you will give up your religion tomorrow? If the government told you to do this, and if it's against your religion, would you give up your job? Would you give up your religion? Would you give up you if you had a mi — if you had $100,000 home? Would you give it up? If you had beautiful Rolls Royce and Cadillacs? Would you give them up? If you had $2 million in the bank? Would you give it up? Would you give it up? if somebody told you tomorrow to quit whatever your religion is, sitting out here now — Baptists, Catholic, Methodist — you say you believe in God. Do you love your God enough to give up your job? If the whole government and the whole government be against you and you might sit in jail five years and give up all of the wealth of America, would you give it up? Setting out that now, if you came to that test, that's something you should ask yourself. Many of you would say damn the religion you take the money. So really you don't believe in a religion so my conscience is happy. I feel good knowing that I'm standing up for my beliefs. Even if they took machine guns to denounce your religion, I'd say SHOOT! I'd just die. That's alI I'd do is just die. So I don't worry. I don't worry about nothing. I wouldn't be here if I worried. I don't have no bodyguards. He's just a friend of mine who helps me around, and he don't carry no guns. I travel all over the north and the south by myself most time. I'm scared of nothing. I believe in God I believe he's divinely guinding me. If he wants me to go to jail, I'll go. if he wants an earthquake to come to jail or fall, if he wants a tornado to come, the city to blow away. If he wants my airplane to hit turbulence and blow up going home, it'll blow up. I follow him. I'm not scared of nothing, no laws of man, Wo with this in mind, is nothing to me. But where if you don't understand me, it looks like something tough to you, but all of this I'm going through I love it done better than if I was still in the ring.

You yeah yeah...Well he asked me to answer — like Malcolm X said Elijah Muhammad was a fraud and he looks at Malcolm X is a greater man that Elijah Muhammad. Let me see how can I — you go to college?.. You college man?...Yeah. So let me see. You a college man. I know you intelligent, you should understand if I make it plain. No, I'll make it plain. Let me see how can I do that? Malcolm X will tell you that he was not always a Muslim. He knew nothing about it. Keep this in your mind, we'll see whose greatest. Malcolm X didn't always. His name was not always Malcolm X. His brother was a Muslim minister of Elijah Muhammad. His brother sent him the first paper that Elijah Muhammad has already established Called 'Mohammed speaks.' We're gonna see who's the greatest you say, Malcolm. When you look at Malcolm X has been the greatest. That's why — that's what destroyed Malcolm X, people like you telling him he was the greatest, and he should be the leader. That's what fattened his head and got him killed. ...You're right. You're right. Let me tell you something we not arguing. Now, Malcolm X read the paper and liked what he saw Malcolm Little, I mean, Malcolm Little read the paper, and liked what he saw. When he got out of jail, he went right to Chicago, knocked on Elijah's door, wanted to meet him. He liked him. met him. He wanted to teach Elijah Muhammad's teachings. He wanted Elijah Muhammad to teach him to be one of his ministers. So Elijah Muhammad took him Elijah Muhammad kept him. They say who's the greatest Malcolm X or Elijah Muhammad? Elijah Muhammad taught Malcolm X everything that made you respect him, my brother. Elijah Muhammad taught him, up nights sweating with that negro, teaching him day and night on every subject. Mohammed taught him everything. Mohammed taught him the Bible, the Holy Quran, the history of every Prophet, taught him everything about his whole teaching. Malcolm X wanted to go out and preach what Elijah told. But Elijah said, hold it, you're not versed enough and held him two more extra years. That was six years after teaching. After eight years, Elijah Muhammad let him go to represent him. And Elijah Muhammad started talking, oh, people like you and many more everywhere I go from coast to coast daily, I get the same question. And I'm not arguing, I'm explaining something, then you can, you can judge after this. See, I was with Malcolm X. I know him like I know my mama. I know Elijah Muhammad better than know my father. So I'm in between, I can tell you just what was not what you read in the paper. Malcolm X talk, went to colleges, TV shows debate with Christian scientists all he was brilliant. People started saying, Malcolm, you talk better than Elijah, which his speech was better. Malcolm, you should be the leader. And if you knew nothing about Muslims, you would have thought that Malcolm X was the boss. That's all you hear in the press. Malcolm X number one man, Malcolm X. Number one man ain't no such thing — Elijah's the number one man. Now, Malcolm X, some white people's plane crashed in England. 120 of them from from Atlanta, Georgia. Malcolm X rejoiced. Good. They need to die, good God need to kill all of them. Now that's the unwise foolish thing for man to say, when 130 human beings burning up on the ground, and he jumped up and rejoice. Malcolm X made more enemies for us than we ever had. He had — he made people think that we were boogie men. When people meet me, they say I think different Muslims. But he had them thinking my only talk was hate violence. Now Elijah Muhammad took Malcolm X and set him down for three months and said be quiet, shut up, don't say a word and told the world. That was a tragedy of what happened to those people in Atlanta. And Malcolm X was speaking for itself and not representing me because Elijah Muhammad is not crazy like he was. He's got Muslim men and women working on everybody's job. We sell 3 million newspapers all over America every day, and many fools would have shot our brothers of our religion if they believe that we are glad Kennedy and people are dying. This put us on a spot. So Elijah Mohammed been the leader and the boss. He had to say, set down. He couldn't set Elijah down. Elijah fired him.This is in history anybody tell you different didn't follow the story. Then when he made the remark about Kennedy, Mohammed set him down. He came to my house, him and his children, read his book. He said this is his book. He said champ, I just can't quit talking. I got to go talk. See the press destroyed him everywhere. Malcolm X got to have a camera, Malcolm X speaker. And when he had to sit down and take a spanking from his daddy, he was too proud. So he said I'm going to start me a movement. We gonna get some rifle clubs. And I was at one of his meetings in New York. After he lef,t after he got put out when started his own movement. Nobody used to say it the movements — 'everybody can come into my meeting. We don't search like Elijah.' Before you come in on meetings, you get searched because some people bring pistols. You don't know who's coming in. So we searched you. He stopped searching, and that's where he met his doom, when he quit following Elijah. We, all our brothers, and somebody got about this close to him with all of his so called followers around him. Bang Bang Bang Bang. Here right right here. Cause quit searching. When he followed Elijah Muhammad, nothing happened to him. He was talking bull, bull, bull. So I'm saying this my brother, Malcolm X is a great speaker. Intelligent. I loved him better than you could ever love him. We financed him, gave him new cars anything he wanted. Elijah loved him better than anybody. That's why he taught him so much. He had a good speech, talked good. Good, pronounciation, but they made him — they do me the same way. 'You're too intelligent to be a Muslim. What are you doing following Elijah, you the champion of the whole world?' And I'm supposed to, you know, get to 'thank you, you're right.' but I'm the champion because of — it was Elijah's teaching that made me the champ. Soon as I quit committing adultery, soon as I quit fornicating, soon as I start talking about I am the greatest, that talk got me the title. It was Elijah's teaching all the time. But the public didn't know until I announced it. That's why I was so different. It wasn't just because I thought it. People may say, oh, you're great, man. But I know who made me great.

I know why I'm talking this long now. Holding people who are intelligent, college people. I couldn't talk like this when I was Cassius Clay and a Baptist and a Christian and hadn't heard Elijah, what can I talk about? Malcolm X couldn't open his mouth until he heard Elijah. So you a little misled when you think that Malcolm X was greater than his maker, because Elijah Muhammad converted 800,000 people, Elijah Muhammad got his own. He's building a $500,000 son in Harlem. He's building a $6 million head Islamic school in Chicago. He's got a $225,000 headquarters in Atlanta. He's got $135,000 sent in Miami. He's put in 3 million newspapers a week. He's on television in Washington. He's already all over the country. He's the most powerful Black man that ever hit America. He was teaching before Malcolm X was born. Now how can you make him greater than Elijah Muhammad? You just thought there, but the man could...

Well, if you still believe it, you, just don't want to listen. Because if you love Elijah, if you love Malcolm X, you got to love the man who made him. Who named him X? Who taught him about Muslims, who taught about Islam, who taught him what he was talking? He was just a mouthpiece like a polly parrot. You tell your 'polly want a cracker, polly want on a cracker? He said polly want a cracker'? How can you say look at it, you taught the polly parrot. He taught Malcolm X and he was patterned after Elijah. Yeah.

Who did not follow it?...That's right. They say he had some nine children, 13 children by nine women or something, and the man is 67 years old. The man has got, the man has got nine children. And four of them are older than you and he's 67 years old. And if and if the man had nine bastard children and Malcolm X's lady friends who went to the — tried to go to the courts to try to prove it, why is it that nobody can? Why is it all over? You mean the government just let a man get away with nine bastard children and it was brought to the light before the world? What happened to it? Where is one of the bastard children? You can't find no fault on Elijah. When you attack Elijah, my brother, it's really dangerous because every Black man in America love him today. They all following him and it's not even safe to let nobody know you don't like this man.

It's not there's not, I ain't playing really dangerous. Because you got fools out her who love him. They crazy, that's who shot Malcolm X was some fools who don't follow this but they just love him. They love what he's doing, the prostitutes they see the pretty long dresses he putting on them. They love to pride is given Black people. They love what he's doing. And anybody talking against him they call him a real Uncle Tom nigger. That's what they call it. So remember one thing, my brother, if you praise me, if you praise me, if you praise me and you praise Malcolm or anybody that's a Mulsilm, remember our teacher is Elijah Muhammad. He is still living and not in the graveyard....

The father said that he want me to discuss, to continue the discussion later. We should get out of the hall because he just heard three members of the Ku Klux Klan just walked in the back (laughter).

The shuffle? Before I do the shuffle I need one opponent. I need one opponent. I need a big man....

John Pemble is a reporter for IPR
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio