Segments in this Video

Cassius Clay (06:23)


On Feb. 26, 1964, after becoming the heavyweight world champion, Clay announced he was a Muslim. He was 22 and believed Islam was the way to end hatred in American society. White people viewed it as un-American and a political action.

Clay and Islam (07:16)

Elijah Muhammad and Malcom X were rival black Islamic leaders, and both wanted Clay to join their movements. They each suggested a new name for Clay: Cassius X and Muhammad Ali. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, grew close with Elijah Muhammad, and distanced himself from Malcolm X.

Ali and American Backlash (04:35)

Reporters and announcers refused to use Ali's new name and Martin Luther King, Jr. criticized him because the Nation of Islam called for racial segregation. Ali went on a tour of African countries, where he received praise for speaking against integration in America.

Ali and Sonji Roi (02:28)

In 1964, Herbert Muhammad, Elijah's son, introduced Ali to Sonji Roi, a waitress and model. They married six weeks after meeting. Ali's parents hoped Roi, a non-Muslim, would dampen Ali's devotion to Elijah Muhammad.

Ali's Career Problems (02:32)

Ali’s sponsorship group worried his faith was hurting his career, but Ali felt he was doing the right thing. The group struggled to find fights for Ali because of his association with the Nation of Islam. The World Boxing Association stripped Ali of his heavyweight championship title.

Ali and Sonny Liston Rematch (02:14)

The public still recognized Ali as the champion as he trained for a rematch with Sonny Liston. After having stomach pain the night before the match, Ali had emergency surgery for a hernia. The fight was postponed.

Ali and Nation of Islam's Violence (05:54)

Malcolm X was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, and three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested. Ali continued training for his rematch with Liston. Rumors swelled that the Nation of Islam would kill Liston if he did not throw the fight.

Ali vs. Liston (05:34)

Ali was booed as he entered the ring with Liston, who had been having lackluster training sessions. Ali KO'd Liston in the first round, but many doubted it was real. Liston died five years later with some suspecting a mob hit.

Ali's Religious Devotion (02:12)

In June 1965, Ali had his marriage to Roi annulled, citing religious disagreements. Roi blamed Elijah Mohammad and the Nation of Islam for controlling Ali, which drove him in deeper. He grew closer with Herbert Muhammad.

Ali and Floyd Patterson (07:14)

Ali wanted his next fight to be against heavyweight Floyd Patterson, a devout Christian. Patterson disliked BLack Muslims and found Ali unpatriotic. Ali drew out the fight to punish Patterson, eventually winning.

Main Bout, Inc. (03:51)

In 1966, Ali, Herbert Muhammad, and two others formed a business, to manage supplemental rights, including closed circuit, to Ali's fights. Ali's Louisville backers were not part of the new organization and Herbert Muhammad became Ali's fulltime manager.

Ali and Vietnam (04:05)

The United States Army changed its standards in 1965 and Ali became available for the draft. Ali announced he would not comply if drafted, which made many Americans dislike him more.

Ali and Ernie Terrell (04:54)

Ernie Terrell, the official heavyweight champion, saw it as his patriotic duty to defeat Ali. Ali refused to take back his remarks about Vietnam and the fight was declared illegal. When it moved to Canada, Terrell pulled out and Canadian boxer George Chuvalo took his place.

Ali's Number of Fights (03:00)

In need of money, Ali greatly increased his fights. He found popularity abroad, unlike in the United States. He argued for conscientious objector status based on religious beliefs for the draft, but it was denied.

Ali and Cleveland Williams (02:12)

Ali returned to the U.S. to fight William "Big Cat" Williams at the newly completed Astrodome. Many viewed it as Ali's best fight and the first use of the Ali Shuffle.

Ali vs. Terrell (06:37)

In 1967, Terrell agreed to fight Ali and the two began promoting the matchup. Ali called him an Uncle Tom and said he would torture him like Patterson. He kept his promise and won the fight.

Ali and Draft Protest (07:19)

Ali was drafted and his lawyers began fighting it. He met with King, who also opposed the Vietnam War. Ali refused induction at the army office, which many black servicemen supported, and most states revoked his license to box.

Ali's Guilty Verdict (04:58)

Many black athletes and others in sports showed their support for Ali's objection to the war based on religion. He was found guilty of draft refusal and sentenced to five years in prison. His lawyers fought it, but Ali had no license to box or his passport.

Ali and Belinda Boyd (02:04)

In 1966, Ali met Belinda Boyd, who grew up in Islam at a Muslim bakery in Chicago. They had similar personalities and married in 1967.

Ali's Speaking Tours (09:36)

Since Ali could not box, he and Boyd struggled financially. Ali began speaking tours about his beliefs, which aligned with black militarism, the Civil Rights Movement, and the anti-war movement. He explained his support for black segregation.

Ali's Break from Elijah Muhammad (04:27)

With it seeming like his conviction would be overturned, Ali said he would fight Joe Frazier to pay off his debts. It went against Elijah Muhammad's teachings, and he suspended Ali and Boyd from the Nation of Islam, revoking his name. Ali apologized and said he would retire from boxing.

Ali's Return to the Ring (05:13)

Against his father's wishes, Herbert Muhammad continued to search for a fight for Ali. The city of Atlanta agreed to host a fight between Ali and Jerry Quarry. Lawyers for the NAACP challenged the state of New York's act of revoking Ali's license.

Ali vs. Quarry (04:42)

It was Ali's first fight in more than three years. Ali won in three rounds and Coretta Scott King honored him after the fight. The fight broadcasted on close circuit television in more than 200 venues.

Credits: Round Two: What's My Name? (1964-1970) (03:06)

Credits: Round Two: What's My Name? (1964-1970)

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Episode 2: Whats My Name? (1964-1970) (Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon)

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Cassius Clay joins the Nation of Islam and adopts the name Muhammad Ali. When he refuses induction into the U.S. Army, he is stripped of his title. After 3 years, Ali triumphantly returns to boxing, but it’s clear that he has lost a step.

Length: 113 minutes

Item#: BVL274457

Copyright date: ©2021

Closed Captioned

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