Classic Signals: Muhammad Ali visits campus

By Emmy Liederman 
Features Editor

On Nov. 13, 1972, “The Greatest” spoke to a group of 200 students in Packer Hall about racial tensions in the U.S. Ali wanted to make it clear that he did not come to the College for publicity or personal benefit — he used the speech to initiate a call of action, saying, “the problem between white and black people is the worst problem in the whole world, and for the last 450 years we’ve gotten nothing but conceit, conniving, and jiving.”

Racial tensions remain an issue on college campuses. (Courtesy of TCNJ Digital Archives)

Ali’s words were well-received by students — his speech was followed by a question and answer segment, and The Signal reported, “He proved to be as articulate in responding to questions thrown out by the audience as he was during his entire lecture.”

Muhammad Ali, ex-Heavyweight Champion and probably the most colorful sports personality in America today, spoke to an audience of about 200 here on Monday night in Packer Hall. Ali dressed casually and using no notes, spoke primarily about his religion, the Islamic faith.

In opening his speech he said that he was scheduled to fight Bob Foster, “the Light Heavyweight tramp, I mean champ”, on November 21 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Ali said that he first started speaking publicly after being stripped of his title for refusing induction into the Armed Forces.

Ali, who was born Cassius J. Clay, said he changed his name because this was the name given to his ancestors by slave-owners. Thus, “Mr Clay’s slaves”, after the Emancipation Proclamation, “took on his name. We don’t belong to Mr. Clay anymore.”

Referring to the allegation that Blacks are violent, Ali said that “we can’t be violent ’cause we don’t have nothing.’ ” Commenting on the racial atmosphere in the U.S. Ali said that “the problem between white people and black people is the worst problem in the whole world, and for the last 450 years we’ve gotten nothing but conceit, conniving, and jiving.” Ali received $2,500.00 for his appearance. He remarked that “I’m not here for the publicity or the change. I want to do all I can to help my people. I keep hearing all you saying power – that’s cause you broke probably. As soon as you get on top, you act like Jim Brown, Diana Ross, Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis, Jr.”