Then it was that family ties were broken, the slaves were all hired out, my mother to one man and my father to another. I was too young then to know anything about it, and have to rely entirely on what I have heard my mother and others older than myself say. My personal recollections go back to the year , when my mother was hired to a lady, Mrs. Ludy Waddel by name. Miss Rebecca Bruce married Mr. Pettis Perkinson, and soon after her slaves were taken to their new home, then known as the Rowlett Place, at which point we began a new life.
It is but simple Page 14 justice to Mr. Perkinson to say, that though springing from a family known in that part of the country as hard task-masters, he was himself a kind and considerate man. His father had given him some ten or twelve slaves, among whom were two boys about my own age. As we were quite young, we were tenderly treated. To state that slave children under thirteen years of age were tenderly treated probably requires further explanation.
During the crop season in Virginia, slave men and women worked in the fields daily, and such females as had sucklings were allowed to come to them three times a day between sun rise and sun set, for the purpose of nursing their babes, who were left in the care of an old woman, who was assigned to the care of these children because she was too old or too feeble for field work. Such old women usually had to care for, and prepare the meals of all children under working age. Masters took great pride in their gangs of young slaves, especially when they looked "fat and sassy," and would often have them come to the great house yard to play, particularly when they had visitors.
Freed from books and mental worry of all kinds, and having all the outdoor Page 15 exercise they wanted, the slave children had nothing to do but eat, play and grow, and physically speaking, attain to good size and height, which was the special wish and aim of their masters, because a tall, well-proportioned slave man or woman, in case of a sale, would always command the highest price paid. So then it is quite plain, that it was not only the master's pride, but his financial interest as well, to have these children enjoy every comfort possible, which would aid in their physical make up, and to see to it that they were tenderly treated.
But Mr. Perkinson's wife lived but a short time, dying in She left one child, William E. Perkinson, known in his later life as Judge W. Perkinson, of Brunswick, Missouri. Perkinson built a new house for himself, "The great house," and quarters for his slaves on his own land, near what is now known as Green Bay, Prince Edward County, Virginia.
But I don't think that Mrs. Perkinson lived to occupy the new house. My mother was assigned to a cabin at the new place during the spring of But after the death of his young wife, Mr. Perkinson became greatly dissatisfied with his home and its surroundings, showing that all that was dear to him was gone, and that he longed for a change, and being persuaded by his brother-in-law, W.
Bruce, who was preparing to go to the western country, as Missouri and Kentucky were then called, he dicided to break up his Virginia home, and take his slaves to Missouri, in company with Mr. In this event there were no separations of husbands and wives, because of the fact that my father and Bristo were both dead, and they were the only married men in the Bruce family.
Among the slaves that were given to Mr. Perkinson by his father was only one married man, uncle Watt, as we called him, and he and his wife and children were carried along with the rest of us. I shall never forget the great preparations made for our start to the West. There were three large wagons in the outfit, one for the whites and two for the slaves. The whites in the party were Messrs. The line of march was struck early in April, I remember that I was delighted with the beautiful sceneries, towns, rivers, people in their different styles of costumes, and so many strange things that I saw on that trip from our old home to Louisville.
But the most wonderful experience to me was, when we took a steamer at Louisville for St. The idea of a house floating on the water was a new one to me, at least, and I doubt very much whether any of the white men of the party had ever seen a steamboat before. But finally we reached our destination, which was the home of Jack Perkinson, brother of Mr. Pettis Perkinson, about June or July, His place was located about seven or eight miles from Keytesville, Missouri. At that time this country was sparsely settled; a farm house could be only seen in every eight or ten miles.
I was greatly pleased with the country, for there was plenty of everything to live on, game, fish, wild fruits, and berries. The only drawback to our pleasure was Jack Perkinson, who was the meanest man I had ever seen. He had about thirty-five slaves on his large farm and could and did raise more noise, do more thrashing of men, women and children, than any other man in that county.
Our folks were soon hired out to work in the tobacco factories at Keytesville, except the old women, and such children as were too small to be put to work. I was left at this place with my mother and her younger children and was happy. I was too young to be put to work, and there being on the farm four or five boys about my age, spent my time with them hunting and fishing. There was a creek near by in which we caught plenty of fish.
We made lines of hemp grown on the farm and hooks of bent pins. When we got a bite, up went the pole and quite often the fish, eight or ten feet in the air. We never waited for what is called a good bite, for if we did the fish would get the bait and escape capture, or get off when hooked if not thrown quickly upon the land. But fish then were very plentiful and not as scary as now. The hardest Page 18 job with us was digging bait. We often brought home as much as five pounds of fish in a day. There was game in abundance, but our hunting was always for young rabbits and squirrels, and we hunted them with hounds brought with us from Virginia.
I had never before seen so many squirrels. The trees there were usually small and too far apart for them to jump from tree to tree, and when we saw one "treed" by the dogs, one of us climbed up and forced it to jump, and when it did, in nine cases out of ten the dogs would catch it.
We often got six or eight in a day's hunting. Another sport which we enjoyed was gathering the eggs of prairie chickens. On account of the danger of snake bites, we were somewhat restricted in the pursuit of this pleasure, being forbidden to go far away from the cabins. Their eggs were not quite as large as the domestic hen's, but are of a very fine flavor.
North of Jack Perkinson's farm was a great expanse of prairie four or five miles wide and probably twenty or thirty long - indeed it might have been fifty miles long. There were a great many snakes of various sizes and kinds, but the most dangerous and the one most dreaded was the rattlesnake, whose bite was almost certain death in those days, but for which now the doctors have found so many cures that we seldom hear of a death from that cause. When allowed to go or when we could steal away, which we very often did, we usually took a good sized basket and found eggs enough to fill it before returning.
We saw a great many snakes, killing some and passing others by, especially the large ones. There were thousands of prairie chickens scattered over this plain, and eggs Page 19 were easily found. One thing was in our favor; these wild chickens never selected very tall grass for nests. But it almost makes me shudder now, when I think of it, and remember that we were barefooted at the time, with reptiles on every side, some of which would crawl away or into their holes while others would show fight.
But none of us were bitten by them. On these prairies large herds of deer could be seen in almost any direction. I have seen as many as one hundred together. Jack Perkinson was not a hunter, kept no gun, and of course we had none, so we could not get any deer. There were a great many wolves around that place and I stood in mortal fear of them, but never had any encounter with one.
They usually prowled about at night, and kept the young slave men from going to balls or parties. The most vicious wild animal I met or encountered was the hog. There were a great many of them around the farm, especially in the timber south of it. In that timber were some very large hickory nuts - the finest I ever saw. I remember one occasion when we were out gathering nuts, having our dogs with us.
They went a short distance from us, but very soon we heard them barking and saw them running toward us followed by a drove of wild hogs in close proximity. We hardly had time to climb trees for safety. I was so closely pressed that an old boar caught my foot, pulling off the shoe, but I held on to the limb of the tree and climbed out of danger, although minus my shoe. One minute later and I would not have been here to pen these lines, for those hogs would have torn and eaten me in short order. From my safe position in the tree I looked down on those vicious wild animals Page 20 tearing up my shoe.
We had escaped immediate death, but were greatly frightened because the hogs lay down under the trees and night was coming on. We had shouted for help but could not make ourselves heard. Every time our dogs came near, some big boar would chase them away and come back to the drove. We reasoned together, and came to conclusion that if we would drive the dogs farther away the hogs would leave.
Being up trees we could see our dogs for some distance away and we drove them back. After a while the hogs seemed to have forgotten us. A few large ones got up, commenced rooting and grunting, and soon the drove moved on. When they had gotten a hundred yards away we slid down, and then such a race for the fence and home. It was a close call. But we kept that little fun mum, for if Jack Perkinson had learned of his narrow escape from the loss of two or three Negro boys worth five or six hundred dollars each, he would have given us a severe whipping.
About January 1, , my mother and her children, including myself and those younger, were hired to one James Means, a brickmaker, living near Huntsville, Randolph County, Missouri. I remember the day, when he came after us with a two-horse team. He had several children, the eldest being a boy. Although Cyrus was a year older than I, he could not lick me. He and I had to feed the stock and haul trees to be cut into wood for fire, which his father had felled in the timber. Means also owned a girl about fourteen years old called Cat, and as soon as spring came he commenced work on the brick yard with Cat and me as offbearers.
This, being my first real work, was fun Page 21 for a while, but soon became very hard and I got whipped nearly every day, not because I did not work, but because I could not stand it. Having to carry a double mold all day long in the hot sun I broke down. Finally Mr. Means made for my special benefit two single molds, and after that I received no more punishment from him.
Perkinson soon became disgusted with Missouri, and leaving his slaves in the care of W. Bruce to be hired out yearly, went back to Virginia. Some said it was a widow, Mrs. Wooten, who took him back, while others believed that it was because he could not stand the cursing and whipping of slaves carried on by his brother Jack whom he could not control.
This man, Jack Perkinson, died about the year , and left a wife and three children. Although he had borne the reputation of being the hardest master in that county, his wife was quite different. When she took charge of the estate, she hired out the slaves, most of them to the tobacco factory owners, and really received more money yearly for them than when they worked upon the farm.
After her death the estate passed to her children and was managed by the eldest son, Pettis, who was very kind to his slaves until they became free by the Emancipation Proclamation. I am informed that the very best of friendship still exists between the whites and blacks of that family. In January, , with my older brothers I was hired to Judge Applegate, who conducted a tobacco factory at Keytesville, Missouri.
I was then about ten years old, and although I had worked at Mr. Mean's place, I had done no steady work, because I was allowed many liberties, but at Judge Applegate's I was Page 22 kept busy every minute from sunrise to sunset, without being allowed to speak a word to anyone. I was too young then to be kept in such close confinement. It was so prison-like to be compelled to sit during the entire year under a large bench or table filled with tobacco, and tie lugs all day long except during the thirty minutes allowed for breakfast and the same time allowed for dinner.
I often fell asleep. I could not keep awake even by putting tobacco in my eyes. I was punished by the overseer, a Mr. Blankenship, every time he caught me napping, which was quite often during the first few months. But I soon became used to that kind of work and got along very well the balance of that year. Orders had been sent to W. Bruce by Mr. Perkinson to bring his slaves back to Virginia, and about March, , he started with us contrary to our will. But what could we do? Nothing at all. We finally got started by steamboat from Brunswick to St.
Louis, Missouri, and thence to Cincinnati, Ohio. Right here I must tell a little incident that happened, which explains why we were not landed at Cincinnati, but taken to the Kentucky side of the river, where we remained until the steamboat finished her business there and crossed over and took us on board again. Deck passage on the steamer had been secured for us by W. Bruce, and there were on the same deck some poor white people.
Just before reaching Cincinnati, Ohio, some of these whites told my mother and other older ones, that when the boat landed at Cincinnati the abolitionists would come aboard and even against their will take them away. Of course our people did not know what the word abolitionist meant; they evidently Page 23 thought it meant some wild beast or Negro-trader, for they feared both and were greatly frightened - so much so that they went to W.
Bruce and informed him of what they had been told. He was greatly excited and went to the captain of the boat. I am unable to state what passed between them, but my mother says he paid the captain a sum of money to have us landed on the Kentucky side of the river. At any rate I know we were put ashore opposite Cincinnati, and remained there until the streamer transacted its business at Cincinnati and then crossed over and picked us up.
The story told us by the white deck passengers had a great deal of truth in it. I have since learned that a slave could not remain a slave one minute after touching the free soil of that state, and that its jurisdiction extended to low water mark of the Ohio River. Slaves in transit had been taken from steamers and given their freedom in just such cases as the one named above. A case of this kind had been taken upon appeal to the Supreme Court of the state of Ohio, and a decision handed down in favor of the freedom of the slave. The ignorance of these women caused me to work as a slave for seventeen years afterwards.
Early in the spring of , we reached the Perkinson farm in Virginia, where we found our master, whom we had not seen for nearly three years, and his son Willie, as he was then called, with hired slaves cultivating the old farm. My older brothers, James and Calvin, were at once hired to Mr.
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In as much as it was not the custom in that state to put slaves at work in the field before they had reached thirteen years of age, I, being less, was allowed to eat play and grow, and I think the happiest doys of my boyhood were spent here. There were seven or eight boys about my age belonging to Mrs. Perkinson, living less than a mile distant on adjoining farms, who also enjoyed the same privileges, and there were four or five hounds which we could take out rabbit hunting when we wished to do so.
It was grand sport to see five or six hounds in line on a trail and to hear the sweet music of these trained fox hounds. To us, at least, it was sweet music. We roamed over the neighboring lands hunting and often catching rabbits, which we brought home. During the fishing season we often went angling in the creeks that meandered through these lands to the millpond which furnished the water for the mill near by, which was run by Uncle Radford, an old trustworthy slave belonging to Mrs.
Prudence Perkinson. He was the lone Page 25 miller, and ground wheat and corn for the entire neighborhood. There were several orchards of very fine fruit on these farms. We were allowed to enjoy the apples, peaches, cherries and plums, to our heart's content. Besides, there were large quantities of wild berries and nuts, especially chinquapins.
When we had nothing else to do in the way of enjoyment we played the game of "shinney" - a game that gave great pleasure to us all. I was playmate and guardian for Willie Perkinson, and in addition to this I had a standing duty to perform, which was to drive up three cows every afternoon. At this time Willie was old enough to attend the school which was about two miles away, and I had to go with him in the forenoon and return for him in the afternoon.
He usually went with me after the cows. I had been taught the alphabet while in Missouri and could spell "baker," "lady," "shady," and such words of two syllables, and Willie took great pride in teaching me his lessons of each day from his books, as I had none and my mother had no money to buy any for me.
This continued for about a year before the boy's aunt, Mrs. Prudence Perkinson, who had cared for Willie while we were in Missouri, found it out, and I assure you, dear reader, she raised a great row with our master about it. She insisted that it was a crime to teach a Negro to read, and that it would spoil him, but our owner seemed not to care anything about it and did nothing to stop it, for afterward I frequently had him correct my spelling.
In after years I learned that he was glad that his Negroes Page 26 could read, especially the Bible, but he was opposed to their being taught writing. But my good time ended when I was put to the plow in the Spring of The land was hilly and rocky. I, being of light weight, could not hold the plow steadily in the ground, however hard I tried. My master was my trainer and slapped my jaws several times for that which I could not prevent. I knew then as well as I know now, that this was unjust punishment.
But after the breaking season and planting the crop of corn and tobacco was over, I was given a lighter single horse plow and enjoyed the change and the work. Compared with some of his neighbors, our master was not a hard man on his slaves, because we enjoyed many privileges that other slaves did not have. Some slave owners did not feed well, causing their slaves to steal chickens, hogs and sheep from them or from other owners. Bacon and bread with an occassional meal of beef was the feed through the entire year; but our master gave us all we could eat, together with such vegetables as were raised on the farm.
My mother was the cook for the families, white and black, and of course I fared well as to food. Willie Perkinson had become as one of us and regarded my mother as his mother. He played with the colored boys from the time he got home from school till bedtime, and again in the morning till time to go to school, and every Saturday and Sunday. Having learned to spell I kept it up, and took lessons from Willie as often as I could.
My younger brother, B. Bruce now Ex-Senator had succeeded me as playmate and guardian of Willie, and being also anxious to learn, soon caught up with me, and by Willie's Page 27 aid went ahead of me and has held his place during all the years since. Prudence Perkinson and her son Lemuel, lived about one mile from our place, and they owned about fifty field hands, as they were called. They also had an overseer or negro-driver whose pay consisted of a certain percentage of the crop.
The larger the crop the larger his share would be, and having no money interest in the slaves he drove them night and day without mercy. This overseer was a mean and cruel man and would, if not checked by her, whip some one every day. Lemuel Perkinson, was a man who spent his time in pleasure seeking, such as fox-hunting, fishing, horse racing and other sports, and was away from home a great deal, so much so that he paid little attention to the management of the farm.
It was left to the care of his mother and the overseer. Sarah Perkinson, wife of Lemuel Perkinson, was a dear good woman and was beloved by all her slaves as long as I knew her, and I am informed that she is living now and is still beloved by her ex-slaves Mrs. Prudence Perkinson would not allow her overseer to whip a grown slave without her consent, because I have known of cases where the overseer was about to whip a slave when he would break loose and run to his old mistress.
If it was a bad case she would punish the slave by taking off her slipper and slapping his jaws with it. They were quite willing to take that rather than be punished by the overseer who would often have them take off the shirt to be whipped on their bare backs. Prudence Perkinson was a kind hearted woman, but when angry and under the excitement of Page 28 the moment would order a servant whipped, but before the overseer could carry it out would change her mind.
I recall a case where her cook, Annica, had sauced her and refused to stop talking when told to do so. She sent for the overseer to come to the Great House to whip her Annica. He came and pulled her out; she refused to obey. He then pulled her outside and struck her two licks with his whip, when her "old mistress" promptly stopped him and abused him, and drove him out of the Great House yard for his brutality. She went to Annica, spoke kindly to her and asked her if she was hurt. I write of this as I saw it.
I can recall only one or two instances where our master whipped a grown person, but when he had it do or felt that it should be done, he did it well. Our owner had one serious weakness which was very objectionable to us, and one in which he was the exception and not the rule of the master class. It was this: He would associate with "poor white trash," would often invite them to dine with him, and the habit remained with him during his entire life.
There lived near our farm two poor white men, better know at the South as "poor white trash," named John Flippen and Sam Hawkins. These men were too lazy to do steady work and made their living by doing chores for the rich and killing hawks and crows at so much a piece, for the owner of the land on which they were destroyed. These men would watch us and report to our master everything they saw us do that was a violation of rules. I recall one instance in which I was whipped on account of a lie told by Sam Hawkins.
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The facts in the case are as follows: I was Page 29 sent one Saturday afternoon to Major Price's place after some garden seed and was cautioned not to ride the mare hard, and I did not therefore take her out of a walk or a very slow trot as it was not to my interest to do otherwise, for the distance was but two miles and if I came back before sundown I would have to go into the field to work again. I got back about sundown, but had met Sam Hawkins on the road as I went, and he was out our house when I returned. He was invited to supper, and while at the table told my master that I had the mare in a gallop when he met me.
Coffee was very costly at that time, too high for the "poor white trash;" none but the rich could afford it, and the only chance these poor whites had to get a cup of coffee was when so invited. After supper that evening my master sent for me. When I came, he had a switch in his hand and proceeded to explain why he was going to whip me. I pleaded innocence and positively disputed the charge. At this he then became angry and whipped me. When he stopped he said it was not so much for the fast riding that he had punished me as it was for disputing a white man's word.
Fool that I was then, for I would not have received any more whipping at that time, but knowing that I was not guilty I said so again and he immediately flogged me again. When he stopped he Page 30 asked me in a loud tone of voice, "Will you have the impudence to dispute a white man's word again? But I lived not only to dispute the word of these poor whites in their presence, but in after years abused and threatened to punish them for trespassing upon his lands.
Other ex-slaves can relate many such cases as the Hawkins' case and such instances, in my opinion, have been the cause of the intense hatred of slaves against the poor whites of the South, and I believe that from such troubles originate the term "poor white trash". In many ways this unfortunate class of Southern people had but a few more privileges than the slaves. True, they were free, could go where they pleased without a "pass," but they could not, with impunity, dispute the word of the rich in anything, and obeyed their masters as did the slaves.
It has been stated by many writers, and I accept it as true, that the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln, not only freed the slaves, but the poor whites of the South as well, for they occupied a condition nearly approaching that of slavery. They were nominally free, but that freedom was greatly restricted on account of the prejudice against them as a class.
They were often employed by the ruling class to do small jobs of work and while so engaged were not allowed, even to eat with them at the same table, neither could they in any way associate or intermarry with the upper classes. Of course this unfortunate class of people had a vote, but it was always cast just as the master class directed, and not Page 31 as the voter desired, if he had a desire. I recall very clearly the fact, that at each Country, State or National election the poor white people were hauled to the voting places in wagons belonging to the aristocratic class.
They also furnished a prepared ballot for each man and woe unto that poor white man who failed to vote that ticket or come when sent for.
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Each one of the master class kept a strict lookout for every poor white man in his neighborhood and on election days sent his wagons and brought each one of these voters to the polls. When the war of the Rebellion broke out this class of men constituted the rank and file of the Confederate army and rendered good service to their masters, who had only to speak a kind word to them when the would take the oath and obediently march to the front, officered by the aristocratic class.
These poor people contributed their full share to the death roll of the Southern Army. True to his low instinct, the poor white man is represented at the South as the enemy of the Colored people to-day, just as he was before the war, and is still as illiterate as he was then. He is not far enough up the scale to see the advantage of education, and will not send his children to school, nor allow the Colored child to go, if it is in his power to prevent it.
It is this class who burn the school houses in the Southland to-day. The aristocracy and the Colored people of the South would get along splendidly, were it not for these poor whites, who are the leaders in all the disorders, lynchings and the like. The South will be the garden spot, the cradle of liberty, the haven of America, when the typical poor whites of that section shall have died off, removed, or become educated, and not till then.
During the summer, in Virginia and other southern states, slaves when threatened or after punishment would escape to the woods or some other hiding place. They were then called runaways, or runaway Negroes, and when not caught would stay away from home until driven back by cold weather.
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Usually they would go to some other part of the state, where they were not so well known, and a few who had the moral courage would make their way to the North, and thus gain their freedom. But such cases were rare. But the mission offended many African leaders and was widely considered to be a diplomatic failure. In , Ali went to Iraq on his own accord to help negotiate the release of American hostages captured after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Fifteen hostages were released, aided by Ali's profile. In the early s, Ali developed noticeable tremors and slurs in his speech.
In , he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Ali's physicians linked his condition to the repeated blows to the head sustained during his boxing career. Ali, however, has stated that he does not believe his condition is caused by boxing. In the ensuing years, Ali became a visible symbol of courage in the face of physical disability and helped raise millions of dollars for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center.
Throughout his retirement, Ali has devoted himself to humanitarian work and charitable causes. Many of Ali's most high profile fights were staged in developing countries, partly in a bid to shine a global spotlight on them. In , Ali met Nelson Mandela in Los Angeles, paying his respects to a fellow advocate of civil rights and political freedom.
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In the summer of , a trembling Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta. His appearance generated a worldwide outpouring of love, reaffirming his status as an iconic symbol of tolerance, understanding and courage. In , in acknowledgement of his humanitarian work in impoverished countries, Ali was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. A Hollywood movie starring Will Smith dramatising his life and career was released in Ali made a number of public appearances to promote the film.
Ali receiving the Medal of Freedom in , and advising President Bush not to take him on in a fight. Ali has been the recipient of a myriad of honours, in appreciation of his lifelong fight for civil rights and religious freedoms. In , Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a civilian in America.
Although he did not speak, Ali's sense of humour was still on full display. When President Bush threw a mock punch at the former champion, Ali twirled a finger round his head to indicate he would be crazy to take him on in a fight. That same year saw the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, a non-profit museum celebrating Ali's life and achievements. Over 50 years after his first attendance at the Olympic Games in Rome, Ali made a poignant return to the world stage.
At the Olympics in London, Ali was designated as an honorary flag bearer. Although his frail physical condition prevented him from carrying the flag, he stood for part of the ceremony with the support of his wife, Lonnie. Ali's appearance was rapturously received by fans in the packed stadium and around the world. It was a fitting tribute to one of the greats of sporting history whose remarkable life transcended the ropes of the boxing ring. Muhammad Ali was a legendary boxer and one of the greats of sporting history.
His impact was felt far beyond the confines of the boxing ring. He lost some of the best years of his sporting career after refusing, on principle, to fight for America in the Vietnam War. Beyond the ring, he will be remembered for his belief in social justice and support for Black civil rights. This page is no longer being updated. BBC Iwonder. The Greatest Muhammad Ali was a fighter all his life, both in and out of the ring.
Clay on the podium after receiving his gold medal in Rome. Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up. Henry Cooper in the ring with Cassius Clay. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. February The Greatest. I shook up the world! Muhammad Ali announces his name to the press. News report on Muhammad Ali's convicted for draft evasion.
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