Newberry Seminar on Religion and Culture in the Americas, March 6, 2020

Malachy R. McCarthy's picture
March 6, 2020
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, American History / Studies, Race Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Sport History / Studies

Newberry Library Scholarly Seminars


Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar


Muhammad Ali’s Exceptionalist

Double Cross


M. Cooper Harriss, Indiana University


  Friday, March 6, 2020 3-5 pm

The Newberry Library

60 W. Walton St.

Chicago, IL 60610


 “I am America!” proclaimed Cassius Clay, announcing his conversion to Islam in 1964—a denomination echoed by President Barack Obama on the occasion of Muhammad Ali’s 2016 death: “Ali was America.” Separated by a half-century, these claims stand at cross-purposes. The former takes exception to the very exceptionalism that Obama claims for the boxer in the latter statement. This essay traces Ali’s relationship to US exceptionalism, a trajectory inextricable from Ali’s identity as both a globally-significant American Muslim in an Islamophobic age and his simultaneous emergence as an American icon. What are the terms of Ali’s double cross?


RespondentJane Rhodes, University of Illinois at Chicago



Newberry Scholarly Seminars papers are pre-circulated electronically. If you plan to attend, contact for a copy. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.



Contact Info: 

Mary Hale, Newberry Library,