In 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. His anti-war convictions stemming from his Muslim faith, and his status as a minister, he argued, exempted him from the draft; the courts disagreed. Ali was thereafter banned from boxing in the United States and stripped of his world heavyweight title by the World Boxing Association. Here, Ali is confronted by students who berate him for refusing the draft, and he responds.
Yet despite public outrage and criticism, Ali’s objections found famous support. As Dr. Martin Luther King began to voice public opposition to the war in early 1967, he - in spite of his strained relationship with the Nation of Islam - explicitly echoed Ali: “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”
Famed sportscaster Howard Cosell argued that “They took away his livelihood because he failed the test of political and social conformity… Nobody says a damn word about the professional football players who dodged the draft, but Muhammad was different. He was black, and he was boastful.”
One of the principal demands of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization that included Tommie Smith and John Carlos - whose Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympic Games similarly shattered the illusory separation of politics, race, and sport - was the restoration of Ali’s heavyweight title. Harry Edwards, a key architect of the OPHR, proclaimed Ali “the warrior saint in the revolt of the black athlete in America.”
The old women reached into their memories. Slowly, haltingly, they began to speak. Some had been hiding it all their lives and were only talking about it now. Just as South Korea’s comfort women survivors waited until their old age before coming forward about their experiences as sexual slaves to the Japanese military - the first of them, Kim Hak-soon (1924-97), related hers on Aug. 14, 1991 - so these survivors of sexual assault during the Vietnam War were giving their first, difficult account of their experiences only now, as elderly women.
“Four people took turns doing it to me one at a time.”
“They’d put one person at a time in the trench, keep me there all day and night and just rape me again and again.”
These were the stories shared by survivors of sexual assault by South Korean troops in the province of Binh Dinh in central Vietnam.
“It was terrifying. It was so brutal. I’m still scared of you Koreans today.”
“Dai Han [Korean]? My goodness, I didn’t know. You? If I’d known you were Koreans, I wouldn’t have met with you.”
The visitors from the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan had gone to Vietnam specifically to meet women who had been sexually assaulted by South Korean troops during the Vietnam War. Yet even they were seen as “Dai Han” (Koreans) to be feared and shunned - the same “Dai Han” remembered as symbols of terror and brutality.