Jack Johnson becomes the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion of the world
Johnson was reviled for his defiance of Jim Crow laws. After winning the heavyweight title, the press began calling for the “Great White Hope” a white fighter who could defeat Johnson and return the heavyweight title to a white man. In 1912, Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries who was hailed as the white hope some had been waiting for and he held the heavyweight title from 1908 to 1915.
Cassius Clay wins first heavyweight title
Cassius Clay won his first heavyweight title after defeating Sonny Liston. After the fight Clay announced that he had converted and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali would later become the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions; successfully defending his title 19 times and cementing his place in history as “The Greatest.”
The Cleveland Summit
On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. On June 4, 1967 a collection of some of the top black athletes in the country including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor met with Ali to discuss his decision — and ultimately held a news conference in his support.