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Muhammad Ali program at National Archives Feb. 5 for Black History Month

"The Trials of Muhammad Ali" film and discussion Feb. 5 at National Archives celebrate its new permanent "Records of Rights" exhibit and Black History Month.
Photo by Yousuf Karsh. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh.

The National Archives will present a free screening and discussion of "The Trials of Muhammad Ali", a new documentary about The Greatest's life outside the boxing ring, on Feb. 5 for Black History Month and the Archives' new "Records of Rights" permanent exhibit.

The film's director, Bill Siegel, will introduce his Muhammad Ali film and answer questions.

The documentary traces the life of "The Louisville Lip", from joining the controversial Nation of Islam and changing his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay to Muhammad Ali, to his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, and his Supreme Court battle (Clay v. U.S.) that unanimously overturned his conviction for draft evasion.

When drafted in 1967, he had proclaimed famously, "No, I will not go 10,000 miles to continue the domination of white slave masters over the darker people of the earth." And "I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong..."

In 1967, the U.S. government denied Ali's conscientious objector claim, and when he refused to be inducted into the military, he was convicted draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, banned from boxing, and stripped of his world heavyweight championship title. He had won the title in a stunning upset, defying 7-1 odds, and defeating Sonny Liston in 1964.

Academy Award-nominated director Siegel ("The Weather Underground") examines how one of the 20th century's most celebrated sports champions risked his fame and fortune to follow his faith and conscience.

"This is an intimate film weaving artful and unseen archival footage, with contemporary interviews from firsthand sources, resulting in an intense, focused narrative with hard-hitting relevance," Siegel says. The story "has at least as much to say about our society and how Ali's principles continue to challenge us as it does about his own transformation."

"The Trials of Muhammad Ali" won the International Documentary Association's 2013 ABC News Video Source Award for best use of archival film in a documentary.

The film was nominated in January for the NAACP Image Awards in the category of Outstanding Independent Motion Picture.

The Ali event also celebrates the Archives' new permanent exhibition "Records of Rights" that vividly brings to life the past and ever-present struggles of U.S. African Americans, women, and immigrants. The exhibit, and the David M. Rubenstein Gallery that houses it, opened last December.

"I shook up the world!" shouted Ali in 1964, when the 22-year-old Olympic gold medalist won his first heavyweight championship. Half a century later, he still shakes up the world. This event shows how.

For more info: "The Trials of Muhammad Ali" free program Feb. 5, 7 P.M., National Archives, William G. McGowan Theater, on the National Mall, Constitution Avenue and 7th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202-357-5000, or

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