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MUHAMMAD ALI IN AFRICA
June 01, 1964
Looking like a slice of Old Testament Ham, the man in the d�collet� shower curtain was none other than Muhammad Ali, boxer, social philosopher and world heavyweight champion, come "home" to Ghana and gone native. Celebrating his victory over Sonny Liston, Black Muslim Ali—sometimes known as Cassius Clay—was mobbed by delirious Africans wherever he went. He shouted happily, "Who's the king?" "You!" the response came. Then, like a politician running for his life, Ali sampled local food and customs, kissed kids, visited a hospital, put on a sparring match before 40,000 Ashanti with his brother and then flounced off to visit Ghana's despotic President Kwame Nkrumah, whom he pronounced a "great guy." With that, Ali turned pensive and lectured, with some exaggeration, on the harsh realities of life back home. "In America," he said, "everything is white—Jesus, Moses and the angels. I'm glad to be here with my true people."
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June 01, 1964

Muhammad Ali In Africa

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Looking like a slice of Old Testament Ham, the man in the d�collet� shower curtain was none other than Muhammad Ali, boxer, social philosopher and world heavyweight champion, come "home" to Ghana and gone native. Celebrating his victory over Sonny Liston, Black Muslim Ali—sometimes known as Cassius Clay—was mobbed by delirious Africans wherever he went. He shouted happily, "Who's the king?" "You!" the response came. Then, like a politician running for his life, Ali sampled local food and customs, kissed kids, visited a hospital, put on a sparring match before 40,000 Ashanti with his brother and then flounced off to visit Ghana's despotic President Kwame Nkrumah, whom he pronounced a "great guy." With that, Ali turned pensive and lectured, with some exaggeration, on the harsh realities of life back home. "In America," he said, "everything is white—Jesus, Moses and the angels. I'm glad to be here with my true people."

At the Accra Press Club in Ghana's capital, volatile Ali swatted at the head of Business Manager Archie Robinson to demonstrate to reporters how white liberals try to force racial integration in the U.S. As a Muslim, Ali says he opposes integration. To insure that Ali always toed the orthodox propaganda line. Elijah Muhammad, the movement's leader, sent his own son Herbert along on the trip to Africa.

Once he had discharged his Muslim obligations, Ali reverted to his first love—winning friends for himself whenever the opportunity arose, as it did here outside a printing plant in Accra. Another time he started doing the twist at a band concert, was almost swamped by a crowd of 7,000. With a wink Ali said to a friend: "I'll probably be the next president, the power I have in this country."

At beach near Accra, Ali sampled a coconut, which he found more palatable than such Ghanaian dishes as groundnut soup. "Beat the champion of the world," Ali said later as some boys approached, but when they tried to take him up, he backed off in mock alarm. "Whoa, brother, you're all right," he told one 8-year-old. Then he was off to collect another crowd.

At Kumasi, center of Ghana's Ashanti region, Ali tried mightily to pull up the legendary Okomfo Anokye sword. The sword was planted in the ground two centuries ago by an Ashanti sorcerer who said the nation he had founded would endure as long as the sword remained in place. Visitors are invited to test their strength against the sword, for the Ashanti are certain no one—not even the great Muhammad Ali—can break its moorings. They must be right. Ali tried for five minutes and couldn't budge it.

A grimacing Ali stalked his younger brother, Rahaman Ali, during six-round exhibition at Kumasi Sports Stadium. Toward the end of the bout, with the King of the Ashanti and thousands of his tribesmen shouting encouragement, Ali feigned grogginess, then fell to the canvas, stunning the crowd. But the champion bounced back to his feet and hurriedly assured everybody it was a put-up job. "If we had been really fighting," he said, "I would have won in one." The crowd gasped its relief.

While a policeman menacingly wielded a truncheon to keep Ghana's sign-waving Young Pioneers from breaking ranks and running amok, Ali and his party prepared to leave from airport. The reception that had been given him in Ghana, some residents said, equaled even those that have been accorded President Nkrumah. "I know one thing," said a man. "They never turned out like this for Queen Elizabeth. His effect on the people is simply wonderful to behold. He must be supernatural." Ali was not denying it. "I heard a voice once," he said, "that told me one day I would be a world figure."

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