1964: How the Boxer Cassius Clay got the Name Muhammad Ali

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  • 6. March 1964

The famous boxer Cassius Clay got a new name on this day – Muhammad Ali. He was a member of the Nation of Islam, an organization that represented the black superiority and demanded the separation of blacks and whites. The new name was assigned to the boxer by the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Members of the Nation of Islam took new names in order to separate themselves from their “legacy of slavery”. They often added an X to their name (for example, one of the most famous members of the Nation of Islam was Malcolm X) to invoke the memory of their unknown African name from the time before white people took them from Africa and threw them into slavery.

Both Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam later because of their disagreement with the racist policy of its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Both converted to Sunni Islam. Malcolm X was killed by members of the Nation of Islam in 1965.

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