silver halide and photographic gelatin on photographic paper
H x W (image): 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8 cm)
H x W (with mat): 20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61 cm)
gelatin silver prints
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States, North and Central America
October 26, 1970; printed 2019
This photograph depicts Muhammad Ali giving a “victory speech” after defeating Jerry Quarry at the Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta in 1970. It was Ali’s first fight after being suspended from boxing for almost four years.
When Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army in 1967, he was immediately arrested, and the World Boxing Association and The New York State Athletic Commission suspended his license and stripped him of his title and all other state athletic commissions did the same. Ali also paid a large fine and served some prison time.
As public opinion about the Vietnam War began to turn on a large scale, so did public opinion about Ali. People wanted to see Ali back in the ring—and in Georgia no state athletic commission existed. Thus, if the mayor of Atlanta approved it, a boxing match could be staged in the city. African American State Senator Leroy Johnson persuaded Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell and the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission to grant Ali a boxing license, against the wishes of segregationist Governor Lester Maddox.
Shortly thereafter, it was announced Ali would fight Jerry Quarry on October 26, 1970 at the City Auditorium in Atlanta. The fact Quarry happened to be white added to the symbolism, politics, and racial tensions on display. It was a crowd and scene never witnessed before at a major sporting event. A sell-out crowd of more than 5,000, filled with the black elite, jammed into the City Auditorium to witness the event. Ali won the fight in a TKO in the third round. In the words of activist Julian Bond, the event established Atlanta as "the black political capital of America." Additionally, this marked an important step forward for the development of professional sports in Atlanta.
A black and white photograph of Muhammad Ali giving a speech after winning a boxing match in Atlanta in 1970. Ali is pictured standing, just to the left of the center of the image. He wears boxing shorts and has white towels draped over his shoulders. His head is bent and he is speaking into a microphone held by a man, sportscaster Tom Harmon, in a suit to Ali's proper right. On the other side of the boxer, Ali's corner man and speechwriter Drew "Bundini" Brown is turned in profile to the camera, his proper left hand placed on Ali's chest. Jesse Jackson is visible between this man and Ali; he is looking down. A number of other individuals surround this small group on all sides, including a photographer snapping a photo, but their faces aren't visible. The photo is matted, with an inscription appearing beneath the bottom right corner of the photograph reading: [Dick Herman 10/26/1970].