Ali Met with Klan Before Thrilla in Manila

A new documentary discusses this and more.

Posted:
 

Shortly before his third and final fight with Joe Frazier, Muhammed Ali met with members of the KKK, apparently at the behest of the Nation of Islam

Before his third fight with Frazier, Ali was at his most elevated, symbolically as well as in the ring. Hard to imagine when these days he elicits universal reverence, back then he was a figure who divided America, as loathed as he was admired. At the time he was taking his lead from the Nation of Islam, which, in its espousal of a black separatism, found its politics dovetailing with the cross-burning lynch mob out on the political boondocks. Ali was by far the organisation's most prominent cipher.

The film reminds us why. Back then, black sporting prowess reinforced many a prejudiced theory about the black man being good for nothing beyond physical activity. But here was Ali, as quick with his mind as with his fists. When he held court the world listened. Intriguingly, the film reveals, many of his better lines were scripted for him by his Nation of Islam minders.