In this week’s post, we are going to have a look at two of the most iconic faces who fought against segregation and for Black civil rights. Their names ring a bell in more than just American heads; their achievements are known and respected all around the world. If you ask people to name two emblematic figures of the “Black movement”, it is most likely that they mention one of those two names: Rosa Parks and Muhammed Ali.
It is difficult to picture him without his shorts and boxing gloves, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay), is often represented on a ring or in a motion of fist-fight as that is the image we see right away when we think of the boxer. His image represents power and strength, just like his muscular body suggests. He embodies what is commonly called “Black power” and is seen as a revolutionary political figure in the American History. He used his famous image (we can see the photographers behind him on the picture) to spread anti-segregation ideas.
Ali experienced discrimination early on as he grew up in the segregated south city of Louisville, Kentucky. As he turned towards the Nation of Islam (a black association) and underwent a change of name, Ali became more radical and started to claim the separation of blacks from white America. This movement advocated that whites were seen as evil and oppressing the blacks who should be proud of themselves. In 1967 after being drafted to go to Vietnam, Ali refused to enter the military which caused him to be prevented from bowing for 3 years, to loose his champion belt and to spend some years in prison. At this period, blacks were most likely to be drafted and Ali’s refusal was then a protest against the unfair drafting system.
Contrary to Ali, Rosa Parks was not famous until she stepped into History after refusing to stand up and let one white passenger sit instead of her in a bus. She triggered the year-long Montgomery bus boycott led by the non less famous Martin Luther King Jr. She did not want to seek physical confrontation but rather pursue a pacific fights by challenging the segregationist system. In 1943, Rosa Parks joined in the NAACP in which she and her husband would become very active. They were also part of the voters league.
As a small woman, her power was not physical. The photo suggests that she was a very determined woman, standing for what she believe and not fearing going to prison to obtain civil rights. We can here see a woman who is proud of what she has done and does not lower the head in front of the authorities. Her achievements gave her the name of “mother of the civil rights movement”.
Rosa Parks continued to fight for injustice all throughout her life and obtain many awards for her commitment. She is nowadays seen as a “role model for courage and the face of injustice”.
Overall, both have managed to advance the cause of black inequalities, one being a massive muscular man and the other a small but greatly determined woman.