A lesser-known Muhammad Ali memory I thought worth sharing today, following news of his death as I'm sure you've all heard by now...
Did you know that… a summary of the story goes like this: 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."
Muhammad Ali - "Buck White"
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.
At the time it was sold as a "Black Power Musical."
Apparently it wasn’t much of a success, since it ran for just seven performances. Maybe its revolution-focused 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 argue for its racial suggestion.
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 available on home video platforms). 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: