The 1960s were an important decade for African Americans in the United States. A major civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King used peaceful forms of protest to try and change the social prejudices that African Americans faced in their own country. A new kind of African American celebrity also emerged. Musicians like James Brown used funk and R & B music to promote messages of black independence and solidarity against mainstream prejudices and intolerance. They used the new forms of mass media, such as television and pop music, to communicate their countercultural ideas to huge audiences. Similarly, charismatic black sports celebrities, most importantly the legendary boxer Muhummad Ali, used the mass media and their sporting celebrity to promote countercultural ideas.

Muhummad Ali won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time in 1964. This made him one of the most famous and celebrated African Americans in the world. Ali was best known for his fighting style which he described as "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". Ali used his fame to promote radical, anti-mainstream values. He changed his birth name, Cassius Clay, to the Muslim name Muhummad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964. Ali claimed his old name was a “slave name” because its origins were in the practices of slavery that brought the first Africans to live in America. The Nation of Islam was a protest organisation whose goal was the resurrection of the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans. Their protest methods were more extreme than the peaceful resistance methods of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. They wanted African Americans to separate from the rest of the USA, form their own nation and look after their own affairs.

This political belief made Ali the subject of a lot of hostility from mainstream American society. This hostility increased when Ali refused to fight in Vietnam due to his countercultural political beliefs. This anti-Vietnam war stance made Ali a 1960s hero in third world African countries. For refusing to fight Ali was found guilty of draft evasion. He was stripped of his World Heavyweight title, sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10 000. During this time, people turned against the Vietnam war, and support for Ali grew. Ali came to be respected as a hero and athlete who stood up for his principles. The court’s ruling on his jail sentence and fine was overturned in 1971. In the 1970s Ali won the World Heavyweight title two more times.


1. On a new page in your books write the heading “Muhammad Ali: 1960s Counterculture Icon”.
2. Cut out the picture of Ali and glue it in the middle of your page.
3. Draw three lines coming out from the picture, like a star diagram. Each line should link to one of these three headings:

Reasons for fame, Countercultural Ideas, Methods of Protest

4. Make concise notes from the text above, putting the relevant information under each heading.
5. When you have finished glue the text above into the next page of your Social Studies books.




Research the following questions about Martin Luther King using this biography and timeline. Turn the answers into a star diagram in your social studies books under the heading "Martin Luther King and the African American Civil Rights Movement". See the whiteboard for a model of the star diagram.

1. List the ways in which Dr King protested against discrimination against African Americans in the USA under the heading "Methods of Protest" in your star diagram.
2. List the influences on Dr King's ideas of non-violent protest under the heading "Influences" in your star diagram.
3. List the things about US society that Dr. King wanted to change (Be specific!) under the heading "Protested Against" in your star diagram.
4. How did Dr King die?. Summarize how under the heading "Dr. King's Death" in your star diagram.


Create a table in your books titled "Similarities and Differences Between Dr. King's Movement and NZ Anti-racist Movements".

Label one column "Similarities" and the other "Differences".

Compare the information you have gathered on both movements (use your completed handout on Maori and Anti-Apartheid Protest Movements) and list their similarities and differences in the appropriate column.


How do you think life is different for African Americans in the USA in the 2000s?. As a class brainstorm what you know on the whiteboard from newspapers you have read, television programs you have seen etc. Copy the classes combined knowledge down in your books under the heading "Life of African Americans in the USA in 2000s".


Look at the images at this page to get a better understanding of the life of Dr. King.