This Day in History

June 4, 1967: Muhammad Ali Summit

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Sports, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On June 4, 1967, Muhammad Ali and a group of leading African American athletes held a press conference in Cleveland after Ali announced he was refusing to serve in the U.S. military in Vietnam.

(front row) Russell, Ali, Brown and Lew Alcindor (now Abdul-Jabbar). Back row (left to right): Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter, and John Wooten.

Ali saw the war in Vietnam as an exercise in genocide. He also used his platform as boxing champion to connect the war abroad with the war at home, saying, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”

Dubbed the Ali summit, the meeting happened roughly a month after Ali refused to step forward at an induction ceremony in Houston after being drafted into the U.S. military and a few weeks before he was convicted.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Carl Stokes were some of the athletes and political figures involved in the meeting. Watch a short documentary from Uninterrupted about the meeting below.

Below are resources for teaching about sports and here are resources for teaching about the Vietnam War and anti-war movement.