Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Health and Sport Studies

First Advisor

Catriona Parratt

Abstract

While the intersection of sport and the Civil Rights era has been well documented from a number of angles and approaches, perhaps no athlete has been so thoroughly connected to this period in history as Muhammad Ali. His stances on Vietnam, race relations and religion during this period have provided a fountain of historical research and narratives on this very turbulent period. However, what about the political and social activities of Ali’s contemporaries? Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman were not just heavyweight champions, but also individuals who were profoundly affected by the mass exodus of Blacks out of the South and into the cities of the North and West. Known to history as the Great Migration, this movement not only affected these men physically, but also helped to shape their ideas and understandings about racial identity, civil rights and race relations in their adult lives.

The purpose of this research is to examine the political and social activities and experiences throughout the lives of Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. In addition to exploring the narratives surrounding their migration experiences, it will display the differences in opinion each man had regarding issues such as segregation and how they defined themselves against Ali’s largely ignored, hardline segregationist stance. Finally, it will explore the possibilities for reexamining not just the popularly accepted narratives of these four men, but also of Ali himself.

Public Abstract

While the intersection of sport and the Civil Rights era has been well documented from a number of angles and approaches, perhaps no athlete has been so thoroughly connected to this period in history as Muhammad Ali. His stances on Vietnam, race relations and religion during this period have provided a fountain of historical research and narratives on this turbulent period. However, the political and social activities of Ali’s contemporaries have been largely ignored, as well as the influences on those activities. When we examine the individual histories and experiences of Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, we see that each man shared several similarities. All emerged from the rural south and into the cities of the north and west as part of the mass exodus now known to history as the Great Migration. This research will argue that this movement not only affected these men physically (specifically, the physical spaces they lived and worked in), but also helped to shape their ideas and understandings about racial identity, civil rights and race relations as young men and adults.

The purpose of this research is to examine the political and social activities and experiences throughout the lives of Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. It will display the differences in opinion each man had on issues of segregation and civil rights and how they defined themselves against Ali’s largely ignored, hardline segregationist stance. Finally, it will offer possibilities for reexamining not just the popularly accepted narratives of these four men, but also of Ali himself.

Keywords

publicabstract, Boxing 20th Century, Floyd Patterson, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston

Pages

ix, 241 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-241).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Daniel Lawrence Taradash

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