Russell Routledge, Muhammad Ali: Tyneside 1977 (Gloucestershire: Amberley, 2014).
In July 1977 the reigning world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, was persuaded by a Tyneside painter and decorator to visit the region for four days and for no personal fee. In Muhammad Ali: Tyneside 1977, Russell Routledge depicts the sense of excitement alloyed with scepticism felt by the people of Newcastle leading up to the proposed visit, placing it in context of Ali’s sporting, religious and humanitarian history.
However, more might have been written about Muhammad Ali as exemplar of the Black Power movement (SNCC chairman H. Rap Brown described Ali as “one of the greatest symbols of our militant black youth and manhood”). Tyneside’s historical involvement in the African-American struggle could then have been explored, tracing its transatlantic lineage from the role played by Newcastle civil rights activists in gaining the freedom of fugitive slaves, including Frederick Douglass, to the letters of condolence sent from South Tyneside immediately after the assassination of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, to Newcastle University’s awarding of an honorary degree to Martin Luther King.
It would also have been interesting to learn of the lasting effects, if any, on the region’s psyche. Was the city suffused with Ali’s spirit by osmosis? Did the people he touched, literally and figuratively, adopt the facets of his character that embodied an archetypal Americanness – boldness, flamboyance, a drive to succeed – and did those traits ripple outward, to the rest of the community and to subsequent generations, enriching Tyneside posterity with tenets of the American Dream? Muhammad Ali: Tyneside 1977 leaves the reader with more questions than answers.
 H. Rap Brown quoted in “Black Leaders Blast Unjust U.S. Conviction of Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali,” Muhammad Speaks, Vol. 7, Issue 9 (June 30, 1967).