In the Face of Adversity: Muhammad Ali's Conscientious Objection

Spiritual Upbringing and Valid Questions

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Muhammad Ali photographed with his family in the home he purchased for them, taken by Louisville Defender staff photographer, Thomas Washington.

Donated by Regina Washington-White and Linda Washington-Black in 2016. 

Spiritual Upbringing and Valid Questions

Muhammad Ali did not always practice Islam. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., and he went to church every Sunday with his mother and brother, Odessa and Rudolph (now Rahman) respectively. His mother was a Baptist, but their father, Cassius Clay, Sr., was a Methodist. Clay, Sr. insisted that Odessa was the better one to guide their religious teachings because she was a good woman and a good Baptist. 

In the book Soul of a Butterfly written with his daughter, Hana, Muhammad Ali explained that he began questioning his spirituality at a young age. 

"I asked my momma, I said, ‘Momma, how come everything is white?’ I said, 'Why is Jesus white with blonde hair and blue eyes? Why is the Lord’s Supper all white men? Angels are white, Pope, Mary and even the angels.' I said, ‘Mother, When we die, do we go to heaven?’ She said, ‘Naturally we go to heaven.’ I said, ‘What happened to all the black angels when they took the pictures?’"

Ali Family Portrait Photograph, c. 1960s

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