Training robe worn by Muhammad Ali at the 5th Street Gym, 1964

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since its inception, in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson, Sapelo Square has commemorated Black History Month with daily Black Muslim History facts. This year, Sapelo Square is exploring the Muslim collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). During Black History Month, we will display a different object each day from the collection, showing how the objects help tell the rich histories of Muslims of African descent in the United States. View the entire series at our dedicated Black History Month 2021 page.

Muhammad Ali wore this robe in 1964, while training at the now legendary 5th Street Gym in Miami, Florida. Earlier that year on February 25, Ali — then known as Cassius Clay — shook up the boxing world by beating Sonny Liston to become the World Heavyweight Champion. Shortly after, he made even more waves when he joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and changed his name to “Muhammad Ali.” The name was given to him by NOI leader Elijah Muhammad and signified a Muslim identity that connected Ali to Muslims all around the world. Ali’s insistence on being called by his new name was just one of the many stands he would take throughout his life on behalf of his religious convictions.

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