During the key civil rights battles between 1966 and King's assassination, champion heavyweight boxer Muhammed Ali was in his own struggle: his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army on religious grounds led to a five-year legal battle which went to the Supreme Court, ultimately vindicating Ali.
When Ali was stripped of his titles, ability to box or travel, and vilified in 1966, Dr. King was fighting aspects of functional Apartheid in the Chicago area, and struggling in a volatile environment, to keep his movement non-violent. While King was receiving daily death threats, and actually pelted with bricks by young Whites at Chicago demonstrations, Ali was saying:
I ain't got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called me Nigger
No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end:
Martin Luther King also turned against the Vietnam War, beginning in 1965, and supported Muhammed Ali's fight:
On April 4th, 1967, at New York City's Riverside Church, he delivered one of the most enduring anti-war statements in modern memory:
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."Soon afterward, he based a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on the Riverside address. Here it is:
How much we still have to learn from these two magnificent men. Muhammed Ali gave very much. Martin Luther King gave all.
Happy Birthday, Muhammed Ali.