Looking like aslice of Old Testament Ham, the man in the décolleté shower curtain was noneother than Muhammad Ali, boxer, social philosopher and world heavyweightchampion, come "home" to Ghana and gone native. Celebrating his victoryover Sonny Liston, Black Muslim Ali—sometimes known as Cassius Clay—was mobbedby delirious Africans wherever he went. He shouted happily, "Who's theking?" "You!" the response came. Then, like a politician runningfor his life, Ali sampled local food and customs, kissed kids, visited ahospital, put on a sparring match before 40,000 Ashanti with his brother andthen flounced off to visit Ghana's despotic President Kwame Nkrumah, whom hepronounced a "great guy." With that, Ali turned pensive and lectured,with some exaggeration, on the harsh realities of life back home. "InAmerica," he said, "everything is white—Jesus, Moses and the angels.I'm glad to be here with my true people."
This is an article from the June 1, 1964 issue
At the AccraPress Club in Ghana's capital, volatile Ali swatted at the head of BusinessManager Archie Robinson to demonstrate to reporters how white liberals try toforce racial integration in the U.S. As a Muslim, Ali says he opposesintegration. To insure that Ali always toed the orthodox propaganda line.Elijah Muhammad, the movement's leader, sent his own son Herbert along on thetrip to Africa.
Once he haddischarged his Muslim obligations, Ali reverted to his first love—winningfriends for himself whenever the opportunity arose, as it did here outside aprinting plant in Accra. Another time he started doing the twist at a bandconcert, was almost swamped by a crowd of 7,000. With a wink Ali said to afriend: "I'll probably be the next president, the power I have in thiscountry."
At beach nearAccra, Ali sampled a coconut, which he found more palatable than such Ghanaiandishes as groundnut soup. "Beat the champion of the world," Ali saidlater as some boys approached, but when they tried to take him up, he backedoff in mock alarm. "Whoa, brother, you're all right," he told one8-year-old. Then he was off to collect another crowd.
At Kumasi,center of Ghana's Ashanti region, Ali tried mightily to pull up the legendaryOkomfo Anokye sword. The sword was planted in the ground two centuries ago byan Ashanti sorcerer who said the nation he had founded would endure as long asthe sword remained in place. Visitors are invited to test their strengthagainst the sword, for the Ashanti are certain no one—not even the greatMuhammad Ali—can break its moorings. They must be right. Ali tried for fiveminutes and couldn't budge it.
A grimacing Alistalked his younger brother, Rahaman Ali, during six-round exhibition at KumasiSports Stadium. Toward the end of the bout, with the King of the Ashanti andthousands of his tribesmen shouting encouragement, Ali feigned grogginess, thenfell to the canvas, stunning the crowd. But the champion bounced back to hisfeet and hurriedly assured everybody it was a put-up job. "If we had beenreally fighting," he said, "I would have won in one." The crowdgasped its relief.
While apoliceman menacingly wielded a truncheon to keep Ghana's sign-waving YoungPioneers from breaking ranks and running amok, Ali and his party prepared toleave from airport. The reception that had been given him in Ghana, someresidents said, equaled even those that have been accorded President Nkrumah."I know one thing," said a man. "They never turned out like thisfor Queen Elizabeth. His effect on the people is simply wonderful to behold. Hemust be supernatural." Ali was not denying it. "I heard a voiceonce," he said, "that told me one day I would be a worldfigure."