Do blacks go to heaven? My mother said we do. But as a child I wondered: So why are angels always depicted as white, writes Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer. When My youngest child, Asaad, was about four years old, he said something that brought tears to my eyes.. My daughters Hana and Laila walked into the hotel room where my wife, Lonnie, and I were staying in Los Angles; Asaad was playing with his mother on the bed. It was summer, and Asaad had been swimming all week, so his skin had gotten darker. When Laila walked into the room and saw him, she picked him up and gave him a big hug and a kiss. She then innocently said, “Wow Asaad, you sure got black today!”

Asaad replied, “I’m not black, I’m clean!” What he said made me think about when I was his age, and how different the world was then. Asaad was still new to the world. He hadn’t yet learned about the concept of colour. His mind and heart were still innocent. And I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if we could all hold on to the innocence of youth. Holding onto my innocence as I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s was difficult. I began to recognise the injustice of segregation around me. There were restaurants with signs that read, “Whites Only” and “No Coloureds Allowed.” Blacks could only drink from water fountains and use restrooms that were labelled “Coloured.” My brother and I didn’t run into any real trouble with the white kids, but there were times when we were called “nigger” and asked to leave certain neighbourhoods. We didn’t experience the same violence that many blacks did in other parts of the South, but Louisville was segregated. —