Michael Manley presents Muhammad Ali with the key to Kingston

Sources:  JSC &  Final Call

It was 42 years ago in December 1974, that Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion and student of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad, was invited to Jamaica by then Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Michael Manley and Muhammad Ali 4.jpg

Muhammad Ali with a copy of Michael Manley’s book The Politics of Change

According to some reports, Michael Manley told Ali that “your fist might have put you in everybody’s favour…but it is your conscience that has written you into immortality in the history of human affairs.”

Muhammad was presented with the key to Kingston in front of thousands of Jamaicans at the National Stadium .

Also travelling with Muhammad were members of the Nation of Islam, including a young Minister Louis Farrakhan who exposed the large gathering to the teachings of Elijah Mohammed for the first time.

Manley’s invitation to Muhammad and the Nation of Islam marked a change in official government policy as years earlier the patriarch of the Nation of Islam had been denied entry into the country under Prime Minister Hugh Shearer.

Below is the cover of the January 17, 1975 Muhammad Speaks Vol. 14 No. 19 edition that covered the 1974 Nation of Islam visit to Kingston, Jamaica.

islam in jamaica the final call

Muhammad Ali also met with Bunny Grant, prolific Jamaican boxer of the 50s, 60s and 70s and winner of the Jamaican lightweight title, the Jamaican welterweight title, the Central American light welterweight title, the Latin American junior welterweight title, and the British Commonwealth lightweight title.

muhammad ali and bunny grant 2.jpg

Muhammad Ali spars with Jamaica’s Bunny Grant


One thought on “Michael Manley presents Muhammad Ali with the key to Kingston

  1. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” Muhammad Ali

    As a Jamaican, I am very proud that our former PM, Michael Manley had the fortitude and vision to have honored the great Muhammad Ali by extending to him the key to the City of Kingston in 1974.

    It seems fair to say that by inviting and honoring Ali with the key to the City of Kingston, PM Manley not only recognized but also embraced Ali’s manifestly anti-imperialist and courageous stances against the criminal American war in Vietnam, his anti-racist activism against Jim Crow apartheid in the US, his embrace of Islam and the Nation of Islam and his unflinching support for liberation movements in Africa and around the world.

    There is also no doubt that PM Manley’s invitation of the unforgettable boxing champion to receive the key to the City of Kingston represented a timely celebration of Ali’s global impact as a distinguished humanitarian and sports icon. However, Ali’s invitation was also a celebration of Manley’s own anti-imperialism as well as a reflection of his policy departure from the pro-imperialist and reactionary domestic and foreign policy positions of PM Hugh Shearer and his Jamaica Labor Party which characterized Jamaica since its political independence in 1962 to Manley’s People’s National Party’s victory in 1972.

    During this period of Jamaica’s neocolonial subjugation to global capitalism, the pro-imperialist foreign policy of PM Shearer and the JLP consciously distanced Jamaica and Jamaicans from the liberation struggles of peoples around the world including Africans and African-Americans to the satisfaction of their neocolonial masters. Hence, the banning of progressive political activists and movements like Ali, the radical Pan-Africanist intellectual, Walter Rodney and the Nation of Islam from Jamaica.

    As such 42 years ago, PM Manley not only had the vision to extend the deserved honor and respect to a distinguished and compassionate human being, Muhammad Ali, but he was visionary also in inviting the Nation of Islam, a critical voice in the struggles of Afro-Americans and black people globally for dignity and liberation.

    As such PM Manley’s invitation of Ali and the Nation of Islam to Jamaica in 1974, like his 1976 unbanning of Walter Rodney from Jamaica as well as his open support of liberation movements like FRELIMO in Mozambique, MPLA in Angola, the ANC in South Africa and his establishment of diplomatic relationship with Cuba represented some of his foreign policy actions that reversed Jamaica’s pro-imperialist foreign policy.

    Undoubtedly one of Manley’s policy goals was to end the political isolation of Jamaicans from the global progressive movements and personalities who resisted imperial domination as well as to strengthen the shared bonds of solidarity and resistance of Jamaica’s own battles to reorganize the world economy to improve its people’s lives.

    Thus Manley’s invitation of Ali to our country in light of his recent passing gave our people and by extension all West Indians, an opportunity to honor and celebrate this great man who we will forever respect and love as much as we will miss him for his courage, his bravery and his unusual dignity to risk even his boxing career and millions of dollars to stand up for his principle of rejecting war in defense of peace.

    PM Manley puts it elegantly in honoring the champ when he declared “Your fist might have put you in everybody’s favor……but it is your conscience that has written you into immortality in the history of human affairs.”

    So as we prepare to lay our Champion, Muhammad Ali, to rest on Friday, June 10th 2016, we will always celebrate his “conscience” of compassion for those whose chances grow thinner in Babylon.

    We will always embrace Ali’s “conscience” of standing up against imperialist wars and for peace. We will always be inspired by his “conscience” of resisting racism and all forms of injustices. In this regard, the world particularly black people should never forget that even after winning the gold medal as the world boxing champion in the 1960 Olympics, Muhammad Ali was refused the basic human right to have breakfast in a restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky because of being a Blackman.
    We will also continue to remember Ali’s “conscience” of love and kindness that he so freely extended to so many in his glorious walks on this planet that is made poorer by his passing.

    So as we celebrate the inimitable life of our champion, it is worth remembering his staunch advocacy for peace, interfaith and interracial unity among all peoples in the presence of the imperial enemy.

    However, it is also worth remembering his clarity on the enemy of his people. Ali made the latter patently clear in an anti-war speech he gave in 1966 in which he said; “The enemy of my people are right here (US).”

    “Freedom fighting for power, wi know not the hour but wi fighting” Bob Marley

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