Based on previously untapped sources, from Malcolm's personal papers to FBI records, Blood Brothers is the first book to offer an in-depth portrait of this complex bond. Acclaimed historians Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith reconstruct the worlds that shaped Malcolm and Clay, from the boxing arenas and mosques, to postwar New York and civil rights-era Miami. In an impressively detailed account, they reveal how Malcolm molded Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali, helping him become an international symbol of black pride and black independence. Yet when Malcolm was barred from the Nation for criticizing the philandering of its leader, Elijah Muhammad, Ali turned his back on Malcolm--a choice that tragically contributed to the latter's assassination in February 1965.
Malcolm's death marked the end of a critical phase of the civil rights movement, but the legacy of his friendship with Ali has endured. We inhabit a new era where the roles of entertainer and activist, of sports and politics, are more entwined than ever before. Blood Brothers is the story of how Ali redefined what it means to be a black athlete in America--after Malcolm first enlightened him. An extraordinary narrative of love and deep affection, as well as deceit, betrayal, and violence, this story is a window into the public and private lives of two of our greatest national icons, and the tumultuous period in American history that they helped to shape.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-21
- Reviewer: Staff
In this provocative history, sports historians Roberts and Smith examine the relationship between two central figures of the 1960s: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. The day after Cassius Clays unlikely upset of Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title, he shook up the world one more time by pledging allegiance to the Nation of Islam. In the eyes of America, Clays transformation into Muhammad Ali was blamed on the man who had stood at his side over the previous months: the notorious NOI minister Malcolm X. The truth, as Roberts and Smith make pellucid, was far more complex. Ali spurned Malcolm for the Nation, and Alis meteoric rise makes a disturbing contrast to the persecution and murder of his former mentor and friend. Roberts and Smith map the relationship between the troubled icons in painstaking detail and debunk long-held assumptions about their break. At the same time, they too easily assign motivations and opinions to both men that, while intriguing, seem largely speculative. Malcolm may indeed have seen Ali as his path to reaching a larger audience, but its hard to believe that the activist was as naive about the boxer as the authors make him out to be. Nevertheless, Roberts and Smith bring a fresh perspective to the story in the civil rights movement, and capture the ferment of the broader era. Christy Fletcher, Fletcher and Co. (Feb.)