Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (Paperback)
In 1962, boxing writers and fans considered Cassius Clay an obnoxious self-promoter, and few believed that he would become the heavyweight champion of the world. But Malcolm X, the most famous minister in the Nation of Islam-a sect many white Americans deemed a hate cult-saw the potential in Clay, not just for boxing greatness, but as a means of spreading the Nation's message. The two became fast friends, keeping their interactions secret from the press for fear of jeopardizing Clay's career. Clay began living a double life-a patriotic "good Negro" in public, and a radical reformer behind the scenes. Soon, however, their friendship would sour, with disastrous and far-reaching consequences.
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.
About the Author
Randy Roberts is the 150th Anniversary distinguished professor of history at Purdue University. He is the award-winning author of many books on the intersection of popular and political history, including A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle (with Johnny Smith). He lives in Lafayette, Indiana.
Johnny Smith is the J. C. "Bud" Shaw professor of sports history and an associate professor of history at Georgia Tech. He is the co-author of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (with Randy Roberts). He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Winner of the 2017 North American Society for Sport History Book Award
"[An] absorbing and provocative new book... An engrossing and important book."—David Margolick, Wall Street Journal
researched book that gracefully pivots between the world of the ring and
the racial politics of the early '60s."
—New York Times Book Review
"Earnest and...smartly constructed."
"Exhaustively researched and tautly written.... The authors unearth reams of new evidence, shine light on long-overlooked episodes, and hack away at the barnacles of mythology, thereby giving us the finest portrait yet of the doomed relationship that transformed Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali."—James Rosen, National Review
"Though their individual
lives have been explored through previous books and movies, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and
Malcolm X delves into the close kinship these men shared, and
the reasons it ultimately fell apart."—Economist
"This book offers a significant contribution to serious studies of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and the Nation of Islam."
"The authors give us a thorough examination of the relationship between the two icons in the context of the black experience and the turbulent 1960s.... We're brought back to the champ's early boxing days and see how the brash Ali whom America came to know developed."—New York Post
"The broad outlines of the Ali/Malcolm drama are well known, but Roberts and Smith emphasize how crucial each was to the other's destiny: Ali's as a global figure of black pride and Malcolm's as a martyred black visionary. They provide more exhaustive detail than previously available, aided by newly released FBI files and personal papers. And they infuse the tale with sharp insights and an impending sense of tragedy."—City Journal
history.... Roberts and Smith map the relationship between the troubled
icons in painstaking detail and debunk long-held assumptions about
their break.... Roberts and Smith bring a fresh perspective to the story
in the civil rights movement, and capture the ferment of the broader
and Smith] sharply detail Malcolm's growing disillusionment with Elijah,
his heartbreak at the loss of Ali's allegiance, and the ugly dynamic
within the Nation that left the defiant minister murdered. A
page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two
proud, extraordinary men whose legacies
"Thanks to Randy
Roberts and Johnny Smith's enthralling narrative we now have a
better understanding of how a complex relationship was born, and how it
"A unique hybrid of race,
politics, and sports; it is easy to read yet gives rise to sober
reflection. It fills a gap in our understanding of one of the most
fascinating relationships in American
history."—Allen Barra, Boston Globe
"Roberts and Smith portray
both of these courageous and controversial, inspired and inspiring men
with fresh, stinging clarity, and extend our perception of the
interconnectivity of race, religion, sports, and media during this
violent and transformative era, which is so very germane
"In convincing detail, Blood
Brothers traces Ali's rise to international celebrity while
Malcolm was stalked and harassed by the Fruit of
Islam, the paramilitary group that enforced obedience to the
—Los Angeles Times
"In the most detailed account
to date of this fascinating bond, professors of history Randy Roberts
(Purdue) and Johnny Smith (Georgia Tech) unveil a story few Americans
know, arguing that Ali and Malcolm were much more than mere
acquaintances; their symbiotic relationship, with Ali as pupil and
Malcolm as mentor, was deeply important to each man. From
beginning to end, Blood Brothers is a story of
—Dallas Morning News
Brothers is shedding light on the secret friendship between
boxing great Muhammad Ali and civil rights leader Malcolm
"In this illuminating joint effort, Blood Brothers tells the story of a strange
friendship marked by initial affection, cold manipulation, and ultimate
—Howell Raines, former executive editor of the New York Times
history in this crackling story of two men whose tragic brotherhood
changed America. Absorbing and essential
—Robert Lipsyte, former sports columnist for the New York Times