Did you know that… In 1969, thanks to being barred from boxing, and swimming in debt (legal fees, family support), Muhammad Ali toured the college lecture circuit to earn money, and, most interestingly, even starred in the Broadway musical titled Buck White.
That’s him in the photo from the musical above, at the center.
The show, written and directed by Oscar Brown Jr (one of the first Broadway productions by a black man, by the way), was a musical adaptation of Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s play Big Time Buck White, and centered on a militant black lecturer who addresses a meeting organized by a black political group.
Apparently it wasn’t much of a success, since it ran for just seven performances. Maybe its revolution-minded content had something to do with it? Broadway’s nickname, “The Great White Way,” was inspired by the millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements that illuminate the area; but, in this specific case, one could make a case for its potential racial suggestiveness.
I couldn’t find footage from the actual Broadway production (although to see Ali singing away on stage in character, I’d suggest you watch the documentary A.K.A. Cassius Clay by Jim Jacobs, which is streaming on Netflix right now); But in the clip below, watch Ali and the Broadway musical’s cast perform the number, We Came in Chains, on the Ed Sullivan Show that same year; and see the poster for the production underneath: