A mural of Muhammad Ali in Brooklyn photo Fabien ROUIRE FR STUDIOS and Italberto Figueira Dantas .jpg

By Gibran Freilla Williams, age 8 and Anand Jaureguilorda, age 15 

Muhammad Ali was a boxer who died in 2016 at the age of 74. He was a three-time heavyweight champion and gold medallist in the 1960 Olympics for boxing.

But he was also an activist who fought for civil rights in America and spoke out against war.

In 1967, he refused to join the United States military to fight in the war in Vietnam, stating, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.”

Despite the threats issued by the U.S. government for refusing to serve in the military, Ali persisted, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

As a result of refusing to fight in the war, he was stripped of his heavyweight champion title, his boxing license, and was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000. Fellow civil rights activists have praised him and saw him as a hero in the antiwar and civil rights movement.

This part of our coverage: THE REVOLUTIONARY LIBERATION STRUGGLES OF 1969. Read other stories from this series.