Bingham met Ali thirty-five years ago in Los Angeles, shortly after the fighter had turned professional and before he discarded his “slave name” (Cassius Marcellus Clay) and joined the Black Muslims. Bingham subsequently became his closest male friend and has photographed every aspect of Ali’s life: his rise and fall three times as the heavyweight champion; his three-year expulsion from boxing, beginning in 1967, for refusing to serve in the American military during the Vietnamese War (“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong”); his four marriages; his fatherhood of nine children (one adopted, two out of wedlock); his endless public appearances in all parts of the world–Germany, England, Egypt (sailing on the Nile with a son of Elijah Muhammad’s), Sweden, Libya, Pakistan (hugging refugees from Afghanistan), Japan, Indonesia, Ghana (wearing a dashiki and posing with President Kwame Nkrumah), Zaire (beating George Foreman, Manila (beating Joe Frazier)…and now, on the final night of his 1996 visit to Cuba, he is en route to a social encounter with an aging contender he has long admired–one who has survived at the top for nearly forty years despite the ill will of nine American presidents, the CIA, the Mafia, and various militant Cuban Americans.
“Ali in Havana” by Gay Talese (Best American Essays)
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. Andit doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”