June 29 Our Stories Speaker Series examines intersection of race, politics and sports in the 1960s through Chandler boxer Zora Folley

June 6, 2019
Boxer Zora Folley from Chandler, Arizona

On March 22, 1967, two men faced off in the boxing ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In the blue corner was the Champ, Muhammad Ali. In the red corner stood the challenger from Chandler, Arizona – Zora Folley. The bout that followed was an event at the crossroads of race, religion, sport and the politics of the 1960s.

The next Our Stories speaker series takes a look at these two boxers and the circumstances that weighed heavily on each man, in a fight that was a turning point in both of their careers. The presentation, “Bigger than Boxing: Muhammad Ali vs. Zora Folley,” starts at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 29, at the Chandler Museum, 300 S. Chandler Village Drive. 

When Folley fought Ali for the Heavyweight title, the two men were very different people. Both African American, Folley was the hometown hero to people in Chandler whose fighting career as a gentleman boxer had earned him respect. Ali, on the other hand, had just refused induction into the military through the Vietnam draft, changed his name from Cassius Clay, and was often painted by the media as a villain. Many viewed him as controversial because he vocalized his religious and political views through his popularity as a sports figure.

Museum Director Jody Crago will lead this presentation to examine the culture of the time through this seven round fight. “This talk allows us to review a defining moment in American history through the local lens of a Chandler resident,” Crago said. “The same issues these men faced continue to inspire discussion amongst sports fans today.” This program provides a special sneak peek at the Chandler Museum’s exhibition on the same topic, which will open in the exhibit hall next summer.

Our Stories presents diverse speakers who share unique Arizona and local history topics to a general audience. This series is produced throughout the year by the Chandler Museum, Chandler Public Library, Chandler Historical Society and Friends of the Chandler Public Library

In July, the Our Stories Speaker Series will continue at Sunset Library with “Arizona Goes to the Moon” with Kevin Schindler, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

For additional information on this program, call 480-782-2717, or visit chandleraz.gov/museum.