Muhammad Ali & The Great White Hope

“Your self image is so powerful it unwittingly becomes your destiny.” –Oscar Micheaux

The very first thing I must say about Muhammad Ali is, he is the most handsome man I have ever met in my life. I met Ali in Beverly Hills, Ca. in 1980.
Years later I would star in a play called The Great White Hope,
a play about the life of Jack Johnson the first black heavyweight
boxing champion of the world.

The Great White Hope was written with the hope Muhammad Ali would be cast as Jack Johnson and star on Broadway. Muhammad Ali turned down the role and the great James Earl Jones was finally cast.

I did the role myself in a production in Danbury, Connecticut in 1995; once cast I wanted to know everything about the play, which lead me to read the autobiography of James Earl Jones and in it I discovered why Muhammad Ali turned down the role.

The producers who were white offered Muhammad Ali a crazy amount of money to star in this extravagant Broadway production.
Muhammad Ali agreed to read the script and even considered doing the show.

After reading the entire script Muhammad Ali returned the script and he had a frown on his face.
“I can’t do this play.” –Muhammad Ali

The producers were confused:
Was it a question of money?

So, the producers put more money on the table and asked Muhammad Ali to re-consider.

Muhammad Ali laughed:

“I tole ya’ll, I ain’t doing this play!” –Muhammad Ali

The producers were perplexed and asked Ali “Why?”

Ali retorted:
“I read the play!
And ya’ll want me to stand on the stage in my draws,
holding a white woman in my arms and tell her I love her?
Is ya’ll crazy?

That’s not the kind of image I’m trying to project for my people.”
–Muhammad Ali

As the producers were heading out the door, Muhammad Ali called them back to give them one final piece of advice.

“My queen, is the black woman, and that’s the woman that I love.”
–Muhammad Ali

Charles Micheaux
Atlanta, Ga.


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