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Ali, Muhammad  

Gerald Early

Despite the considerable achievements of such important African American athletes as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Brown, and Jackie Robinson, the young brash prizefighter from Louisville, Kentucky, may very well have eclipsed their significance. He surely eclipsed their fame as, at the height of his career in the early and middle 1970s, Muhammad Ali was, without question, the most famous African American in history and among the five most recognized faces on the planet.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in 1942 (named after both his father and the famous Kentucky abolitionist), the gregarious, handsome, and extraordinarily gifted boxer garnered world attention by winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He further stunned the sports world by beating the heavily favored Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title in 1964 and shocked white America by announcing right after that fight that ...


Ali, Muhammad  

John Gennari

As the dominant heavyweight boxer of the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal, captured the professional world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, and successfully defended his title nineteen times. Ali's extroverted, colorful style, both in and out of the ring, heralded a new mode of media-conscious athletic celebrity. Through his bold assertions of black pride, his conversion to the Muslim faith, and his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, Ali became a highly controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s. At the height of his fame, Ali was described as “the most recognizable human being on earth.”

Ali's 1981 retirement from boxing did not diminish his status as an international public figure. Despite suffering from Parkinson's disease, Ali remained on the world stage as an adherent of the Nation of Islam an advocate of children and war victims and a proponent of international understanding ...


Ali, Muhammad  

David K. Wiggins

Born as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali first gained international attention when he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1964 he captured the heavyweight championship for the first time in a surprising sixth-round technical knockout of Sonny Liston. Shortly after that fight, Ali announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), the black separatist religious group led by Elijah Muhammad. Ali's religious conversion provoked much controversy in America, especially among whites who abhorred his membership in a group that spoke of “white devils” and the superiority of the black race. He further infuriated many Americans when he refused induction into the armed forces in 1967, during the Vietnam War, on religious grounds. His stand resulted in the revoking of his heavyweight crown and conviction for draft evasion. In 1970 the U S Supreme ...


Ali, Muhammad  

Luther Adams

boxer, civil rights activist. Perhaps one of the most recognized people in the world, Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. to Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa (Grady) Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of his father and the white Kentucky abolitionist Cassius M. Clay. Clay attended the all-black Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating 376th out of a senior class of 391. Ali has been married four times: to Sonji Roi, Kalilah Tolona (formerly Belinda Boyd), Veronica Porsche, and Yolanda Ali. He has been married to Yolanda since 1986, and has seven daughters and two sons, including Laila Ali, a boxer in her own right.


Ali, Muhammad  

Gerald Early

world champion boxer and political activist, was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest of two sons raised by Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and something of a frustrated artist, and Odessa Grady, a domestic. Young Clay began to take boxing lessons at the age of twelve because someone had stolen his bicycle and he was determined to exact revenge against the perpetrators. He never discovered who stole his bike, but he did blossom as a young fighter, taking instruction from the Louisville policeman Joe Martin. His brother, Rudolph Arnette Clay (Rudolph Valentino Clay in some sources and later Rahaman Ali), also took up boxing, but, lacking his brother's talent, never became a significant presence in the sport.

Clay became a gym rat feeling that he could succeed in boxing as he never could in school Although he showed no special ability in his ...


Barry, Marion  

John R. Wennersten

civil rights activist, mayor, and city councilman. For more than two decades Marion Barry as a political leader of Washington, D.C., epitomized all that is good and bad about the politics of the urban South.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, to a father who was a sharecropper and a mother who was a domestic, Marion Shepilov Barry was raised near Memphis, Tennessee, and experienced the twin hardships of poverty and segregation in the post–World War II South. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1954 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Memphis's LeMoyne College in 1958 and a master's degree in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville in 1960. While a college student Barry led a well-publicized effort to force a white LeMoyne College trustee to retract disparaging remarks that he made about blacks during a Memphis bus-desegregation campaign.

Increasingly involved in the civil ...


Barry, Marion Shepilov, Jr.  

Kate Tuttle

Marion Barry's 1994 election to a fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., three years after his conviction for cocaine possession, was just another twist in the turbulent career of the sharecropper's son from the Mississippi Delta. Born near the small town of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Barry moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of five. Barry grew up amid poverty, segregation, and racism. Despite these circumstances, he excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend college. At LeMoyne College, a racially mixed institution in Memphis, Barry joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), becoming its president in his senior year.

Barry received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958 and that fall began postgraduate study at historically black Fisk University in Nashville. Barry organized the campus's first NAACP chapter and helped stage nonviolent Sit-Ins ...


Córdoba Cabrera, Ana Fabricia  

Francisco Eversley Torres

against paramilitary violence who was assassinated in the city of Medellín, Colombia, in 2011. Little is known about her parents or early years, but her life was undoubtedly shaped by the armed conflict between government forces, rightist paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and organized crime in Colombia that began in the mid-1960s. Around the year 2000 she was displaced by the armed conflict, and forced to leave the northern Urabá region of Antioquia, after her husband was killed by the Bloque Bananero, part of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC), the country’s main paramilitary force. She also witnessed paramilitaries killing her mother.

Arriving with her five children in the sprawling city of Medellin, 100 kilometers south of Urabá, in 2001 Córdoba was determined to tell her story without fear and to serve as a voice for Colombian victims of violence She found a home ...


Gbowee, Leymah Roberta  

Susan Shepler

peace activist, social worker, women's rights advocate, and 2011Nobel Laureate, was born on 1 February 1972 in central Liberia and raised in the country's capital, Monrovia. Her father worked as the head radio technician and liaison to the United States for the government of Liberia's National Security Agency. Her father was hired under President William Tolbert, was arrested and jailed for nine months when Samuel Doe seized power in 1980, and was reinstated upon his release. He resigned with the election of Charles Taylor in 1997 and became head of security at St. Peters Catholic Church. Her mother was a dispensing pharmacist at several hospitals in Monrovia before the outbreak of war.

Gbowee graduated from B.W. Harris Episcopal High, one of Monrovia's best high schools. In March 1990 she began classes at the University of Liberia with the dream of becoming a doctor ...


Lucy, William  

Kimberly M. Curtis

labor leader and civil rights activist. William Lucy was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised in Richmond, California, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and studied civil engineering. In 1953 he became assistant materials and research engineer for Contra Costa County, California. In 1956 he joined the Contra Costa County Employees Association, local union 1675 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Beginning in the 1960s Lucy ascended the ranks of organized labor. In 1965 he was elected president of local union 1675. He became associate director of the Legislation and Community Affairs departments of AFSCME International in Washington, D.C., in 1966. In May 1972 he was elected secretary-treasurer of the AFSCME, the second-highest office in the organization. Lucy remained the top African American labor activist in the United States into the twenty-first century. In 2004 for the eighth consecutive time his colleagues ...


Sampson, Edith  

Erin L. Thompson

activist, delegate to the United Nations, judge. Born Edith Spurlock in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a shipping clerk and a hatmaker, Sampson's childhood was poor. At age fourteen she left school to work in a fish market. After returning to high school and graduating, Sampson attended the New York School of Social Work. There, she met and married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute.

When her husband was transferred to Chicago, Sampson found work surveying conditions in the city's South Side neighborhoods for the Young Women's Christian Association while also taking courses at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. In the 1920s Sampson worked for the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society while attending the night program at John Marshall Law School. She graduated in 1925 and enrolled in the Loyola University Law School to obtain an LLM master of laws ...


Sampson, Edith Spurlock  

Jaime McLean

Edith Spurlock Sampson was the first black woman to serve as a judge in Illinois and the first African American to be appointed to represent the United States at both the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although her career spanned the globe, she maintained a concern for children’s rights and family welfare. Her commitment to these causes determined the path of her career and defined her professional goals throughout her life.

Sampson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis and Elizabeth Spurlock Sampson s father worked as a shipping clerk for seventy five dollars a month a sum her mother supplemented by making hat frames and twisting switches of artificial hair Between them Elizabeth and Louis were able to purchase a house and offer a comfortable if not extravagant life for their children Sampson attended Lincoln and Larimer Elementary Schools but took a ...


Sibazuri, Marie-Louise  

Jeremy Rich

Burundian playwright and activist, was born on 2 January 1960 in the Kayenza region of northern Burundi. She attended primary and secondary schools in Burundi, and graduated from a secondary school run by Catholic nuns.

Her mother helped inspire Sibazuri’s writing career by telling her family folktales, and then requiring all the children to learn them by heart. Sibazuri wrote her first play when she was fourteen, in 1974, two years after the catastrophe of the spring 1972 genocide in which perhaps as many as 500 000 people were killed at the hands of the Tutsi dominated military Sibazuri was born in a Hutu family but as an adult she joined the Uprona party which had dominated politics under its leaders Jean Baptiste Bagaza and Pierre Buyoya She worked as a teacher in the 1970s and 1980s By the late 1980s Sibazuri was a member of the central ...


Togane, Mohamud Siad  

Lidwien Kapteijns

iconoclastic and controversial Somali free-verse poet and peace activist, was born in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on 1 July 1947. An alternate form of his name is Maxmuud Siyaad Togane. As a young boy, he first learned to memorize the Qurʾan and was then sent to Mennonite schools, first at Mahaddei and then in Jowhar (1959–1969). He attended Hartnell Junior College in Salinas, California, and then obtained a BA degree in English literature from Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University). After his return to Somalia, he taught at Lafole College of Education (1970–1973). However, in 1973, like many other Somali intellectuals, he went into exile and left the military regime of Mohamed Siyad Barre behind. He settled in Canada, which gave him citizenship, and where he earned an MA in creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal (1979–1982).

Togane taught and guest lectured at many North ...