March 2, 2016

Kojo At Kramerbooks: Understanding The Fatal Relationship Between Muhammad Ali And Malcolm X

By Tayla Burney

Kojo Nnamdi in conversation with writer Randy Roberts about the book he co-authored, "Blood Brothers."

Kojo Nnamdi in conversation with writer Randy Roberts about the book he co-authored, "Blood Brothers."

It’s only two months into 2016 and WAMU In Your Bookstore has brought six of the station’s reporters, producers and hosts to neighborhood bookstores for thoughtful discussions with local and visiting authors. No matter the topic, the events always bring great energy and fun.

Recently, Kojo held his own author discussion at Kramerbooks and the effect was something like a pop-up talk show. His conversation with author Randy Roberts, co-author of “Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X,” was an eye-opening look at the friendship that shaped Ali’s career in so many ways.

A crowd came out and browsers lingered on a rainy night to hear Kojo and Randy two talk about two legendary figures. Early on, Kojo shared his early memories of Cassius Clay, sparking discussion of the connections between Cassius’ childhood experience of segregation, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Randy Roberts explained that Malcolm X was beginning to chafe under the leadership of the Nation of Islam when he and Cassius Clay first crossed paths. And Cassius was figuring out who he was as a public figure as his fame grew.

One thing I learned in listening to the conversation was that after he was Cassius Clay and before he took the name Muhammad Ali the boxing legend was known briefly as Cassius X. And it turns out, the question of his name and who in the Nation would select it was a point of contention in the breakdown of Ali and Malcolm X’s relationship. Randy explained why the friendship frayed and recounted their final encounter, in which Maya Angelou factored.

Finally, they talked about the great image that appears on the cover of “Blood Brothers” and the shift Ali made from being a figure who was roundly vilified to one who is so beloved today.

You can hear their entire conversation here. And we hope to see you out at a WAMU in Your Bookstore event soon!



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