Muhammad Ali gave us a lot of great moments in the boxing ring, but what he may be remembered for just as much is his quick wit and his biting quotes. Ali never shied away from jumping into racial issues and making his opinions known. ‘The Greatest’ was also perhaps the world’s most popular Muslim, and he never stopped defending his religion.

-Muhammad Ali, Dead At 74, Forever The Greatest

Here are ten of Ali’s greatest quotes as they relate to America’s racial issues and his religion of Islam.


  • “I have been so great in boxing they had to create an image like Rocky, a white image on the screen, to counteract my image in the ring. America has to have its white images, no matter where it gets them. Jesus, Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Rocky.”

Muhammad Ali, left, comes out of the corner at Ken Norton, right, during the WBC/WBA heavyweight title fight September 28, 1976 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx borough of New York City. Ali retained the title with a twelve round unanimous decision. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

  • “Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.”

-Obamas On Ali’s Passing: “He Was The Greatest. Period”

  • “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me." ~Muhammad Ali

  • “The name Muhammad is the most common name in the world. In all the countries around the world — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon — there are more Muhammads than anything else. When I joined the Nation of Islam and became a Muslim, they gave me the most famous name because I was the champ.”

5) Malcolm XBorn into a Midwestern family led by a Baptist preacher and Marcus Garvey supporter, Malcolm X experienced white supremacy, including the brutal murder of his father, before the age of 7. A prison conviction for the high school dropout turned into a lifeline for black America as the former Malcolm Little embraced Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad’s teachings of black empowerment and self-sufficiency. Challenging this nation’s systematic racism as the NOI’s controversial spokesperson, Malcolm X’s popular appeal increased membership from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963. Confronted with Muhammad’s hypocrisy, Malcolm X left the NOI and, after worshipping with Muslims of all colors in Mecca, denounced his own black separatism speech.His 1965 assassination by NOI members, though he was also targeted by the FBI, didn’t destroy his legacy; nearly 50 years later, his message of black empowerment and liberation lives on in recorded speeches, writings and the perennial bestseller The Autobiography of Malcolm X.(AP Photo)

  • “The Nation of Islam’s main focus was teaching black pride and self-awareness. Why should we keep trying to force ourselves into white restaurants and schools when white people didn’t want us? Why not clean up our own neighborhoods and schools instead of trying to move out of them and into white people’s neighborhoods?”
Muhammad Ali in draft court, June 20, 1967
Muhammad Ali in draft court, June 20, 1967
  • “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 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? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

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  • “I’m just hoping that people understand that Islam is peace and not violence.”
  • “I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.”

Ali nearly knocks out Bush (2005)President Bush sidestepped Muhammad Ali’s famous opposition of the Vietnam War when presenting him with the highest domestic honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bush tried to goof around with the champ but Ali wasn’t having it — and he got the last laugh.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
  • “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths.”