African American Heritage

Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 - June 6, 2016)

Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali is consistently ranked as one of the greatest boxers of all time. At the age of 18, Ali traveled to Rome, Italy to participate in the 1960 Olympics. He won the gold medal in light heavyweight boxing and returned to the United States to pursue his professional boxing career shortly thereafter. It was also around this time that Clay became a member of the Nation of Islam, announcing his name as Cassius X, then Muhammad Ali in 1964.

In 1967, Ali had been reigning world heavyweight champion for three years when he publicly refused to be inducted into the American military during the Vietnam War. As a result of his actions, boxing officials decided to punish Ali by stripping him of his titles and suspending him from the game of boxing. During his suspension from 1967-1970, Ali became an activist and toured around the world speaking to civil rights organizations and anti-war groups.

After 1970, Ali regained the title of heavyweight champion after defeating George Foreman in a match known as "The Rumble in the Jungle." He continued fighting until 1981, ending his career with a 56-5 professional record.

Black Power records at the National Archives related to Muhammad Ali consist of the court case (Clay v. United States) relating to his refusal of induction for the Vietnam War draft. There are also records of FBI surveillance of Muhammad Ali in various parts of the country and his time spent with the members of the Nation of Islam. Also, a motion picture, sound recordings and several photographs of Ali at State Dinners and meetings with sitting presidents.

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Social Networks and Archival Context - Muhammad Ali


Selected Photographs from the National Archives

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Ali with President Gerald Ford, 1974

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Ali and President Jimmy Carter, 1980


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Ali with President Ronald Reagan, 1983


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Ali receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2005


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Ali with President Bill Clinton, 2000


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Ali with Nelson Mandela and Al Gore (detail), 1994


Web Highlights

Blogs from Rediscovering Black History Blogs from Text Message
Pair of Ali's Boxing Gloves at JFK Library Records of Rights: Ali's Fight for Justice


Record Group 21: District Courts of the United States

Criminal Case Files, 1908-1973 [Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas] National Archives Identifier 563137

Selected Records
Muhammad Ali Draft Evasion Court Case ( NAID 5604069)
Muhammad Ali Appearance Bond ( NAID 5897836)

Record Group 59: Department of State

Country Files, 1942-1948 National Archives Identifier: 2544414

Selected Records
Lebanon-Raad, Muhammad Ali - U.S. Honorary Fellowship IIE ( NAID 2590897)

Record Group 60: Department of Justice (DOJ)

Case Files and Enclosures Relating to Cassius Clay, Jr. (Muhammad Ali) National Archives Identifier 22930205

Subject Files of the Assistant Attorney General, 1958-1993 National Archives Identifier 1489028

Selected Records
[Reynolds, William B.] Civil Rights Division-Privacy Act Request - Muhammad Ali #2101 ( NAID 4556053)


Record Group 111: Office of the Chief Signal Officer

Motion Picture Films from the Army Library Copy Collection, 1964-1980 National Archives Identifier 25061

Selected Records
US Army Personnel in Olympic Games, Rome, Italy ( NAID 28116)

Record Group 220: Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards

Newspaper Clippings Name Files, 1978-1979 National Archive Identifier 559563

Selected Records
Ali, Muhammad, 1/23/79-4/15/79 ( NAID 575719)

Record Group 306: US Information Agency (USIA)

Sound Recordings Relating to “Studio One” Broadcasts, 1955-2003 National Archives Identifier 564649

Selected Records
I Am the Greatest ( NAID 573127)

Record Group 412: Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA)

DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972-1977 National Archives Identifier 542493

Selected Records
World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, A Black Muslim, Attends The Sect’s Service To Hear Elijah Muhammad Deliver The Annual Savior’s Day Message In Chicago... ( NAID 556247)

GRF-0059 - White House Central Files Name Files (Ford)

White House Central Files Name Files, 8/1974-1/1977 National Archives Identifier 564463

Selected Records
Ali, Muhammad ( NAID 4517951)

White House Central Files Subject Files on Recreation and Sports, 8/1974-1/1977 National Archives Identifier 564245

Selected Records
RE 6: Boxing - Wrestling - Karate - Judo ( NAID 5608664)

GRF-0126 - Sheila R. Weidenfeld Files (Ford)

Sheila Weidenfeld’s General Subject Files, 1974-1977 National Archives Identifier 644396

Selected Records
Ford, Susan - Events - 4/27/76 - Visit with Muhammad Ali - Clippings ( NAID 1489897)

GRF-WHPO - White House Photographic Office (Ford)

Gerald R. Ford White House Photographs, 8/9/1974-1/20/1977 National Archives Identifier 1756311

Selected Records
Photograph of King Hussein of Jordan and President Gerald R. Ford Greeting Heavyweight Boxer Muhammad Ali in the Receiving Line at a State Dinner Held in His Majesty’s Honor ( NAID 7840017)

GWB-WHPO - Records of the White House Photo Office (George W. Bush)

Photographs Related to the George W. Bush Administration, 1/20/2001-1/20/2009 National Archives Identifier 5962237

Selected Records
President George W. Bush Shakes Hands with Muhammad Ali ( NAID 7431423)
President George W. Bush Embraces Muhammad Ali, 2005 Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom ( NAID 6769535)

HICK: John R. Hickman Audio Collection

Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906 - 1993 National Archives Identifier 1487762

Selected Records
Muhammad Ali on Integration, Separation, Politics, and Violence ( NAID 2867610)

HRST - Hearst Metrotone News, Inc. Collection

News of the Day Motion Picture Newsreel Films, 10/1963- 12/1967 National Archives Identifier 95102

Selected Records
News of the Day (Aug. 15) ( NAID 95503)
News of the Day (June 22) ( NAID 95488)

JC-WHPO - Records of the White House Press Office (Carter)

Black Media Mass Mailing Files, 1977-1981 National Archives Identifier 6210723

Selected Records
President Greets Muhammad Ali, 1/9/80 ( NAID 6256815)

JC-WHSP - Carter White House Photographs Collection

Carter White House Photographs: Presidential, 1/20/1977-1/22/1981 National Archives Identifier 173341

Selected Records
Jimmy Carter - Signing ceremony for H.R. 5860, the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, Fr. 3-26; Jimmy Carter - With Muhammad Ali, Fr. 27-36 ( NAID 842988)
Jimmy Carter - Signing ceremony for H.R. 5860, the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, Fr. 4-26; Jimmy Carter - With Muhammad Ali, Fr. 27-33 ( NAID 842989)
Jimmy Carter- Signing ceremony for H.R. 5860, the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, Fr. 4-15; Jimmy Carter - With Muhammad Ali, Fr.16-20A ( NAID 842990)
Jimmy Carter- With Muhammad Ali and group ( NAID 842992)
Jimmy Carter - With Muhammad Ali, Fr. 2-7; With Walter Heller, Fr. 8-11 ( NAID 842996)
Jimmy Carter- With Muhammad Ali ( NAID 843545)
Jimmy Carter- With Muhammad Ali ( NAID 843546)
Jimmy Carter- With Muhammad Ali ( NAID 843547)
Jimmy Carter- With Muhammad Ali ( NAID 843553)

WJC-AG-PO - Vice Presidential Records of the White House Photograph Office (Clinton)

Vice Presidential Photographs, 1/20/1993-1/20/2001 National Archives Identifier 7349218

Selected Records
V05822, October 6, 1994 ( NAID 24737524)

WJC-WHPO - Photographs of the White House Photograph Office (Clinton)

Photographs Relating to the Clinton Administration, 1/20/1993-1/20/2001 National Archives Identifier 594653

Selected Records
Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton at the Italian American Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. ( NAID 5899875)