Muhammad Ali: An Unusual Leader in the Advancement of Black America
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CitationVoulgaris, Panos J. 2016. Muhammad Ali: An Unusual Leader in the Advancement of Black America. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe rhetoric and life of Muhammad Ali greatly influenced the advancement of African Americans. How did the words of Ali impact the development of black America in the twentieth century? What role does Ali hold in history? Ali was a supremely talented artist in the boxing ring, but he was also acutely aware of his cultural significance. The essential question that must be answered is how Ali went from being one of the most reviled people in white America to an icon of humanitarianism for all people. He sought knowledge through personal experience and human interaction and was profoundly influenced by his own upbringing in the throes of Louisville’s Jim Crow segregation. His family history and general understanding of the black experience in America enabled him to serve as a conduit for many of the prominent African-American voices that came before him. He was, at the very least, implicitly aware of the views of previous black thinkers and had the innate ability of carrying an indefatigably powerful voice for the cause of black advancement. Ali simply had the knack to take what came before him and push forward the black cause. He played an essential role for the progress of black America through his pointed rhetoric and cultural influence. He transformed the role of the black athlete in America and supplemented the work of more formal leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Ali’s rhetoric came to life during interviews, speeches, and impromptu dialogue. In sum, Ali was vital to the progress of black America and should be placed among the most influential African Americans in history.
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