Sunday, February 22, 2009

Michael Ezra's "Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon"

Michael Ezra is Chair of the American Multicultural Studies Department at Sonoma State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the midpoint of my book Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon. Does it reflect the quality of the whole? There’s probably a little more quoting of sources and a little less of my own analysis on that page than on most of the others, but otherwise I would say that my book conforms to the page 99 test.

Page 99 describes the negative responses by newspaper reporters to Muhammad Ali’s intended use of a Nation of Islam-led corporation to promote his February 1966 title fight against contender Ernie Terrell. One writer claimed that Ali was “as innocent as a puppet compared to the gang of fanatics that now owns and operates him.” Another feared the making of a “fight whose profits would go largely to the Black Muslims.”

These quotes go right to the heart of the book’s main idea, that Muhammad Ali’s cultural meanings have always been a product of their economic consequences. Although politicians, rival promoters, and newspaper writers may have used Ali’s draft resistance as the vehicle to criticize him, their ultimate concern was his financial empowerment of the Nation of Islam.

It is easy to attribute Ali’s iconic and beloved status today to his being right about the Vietnam War, or his being a fantastic fighter, or his renunciation of the Nation of Islam. Certainly those things are contributing factors in his becoming sacrosanct. But to truly understand Ali, one must never lose sight of the ways that people have capitalized by spinning such narratives into allegories.

My book explores these processes.
Read an excerpt from Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue