Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X at the United Nations on March 5, 1964.
Malcolm X arranged for Ali (then Cassius X) to meet with diplomats from Africa and Asia at the United Nations.
Sports writer Murray Robinson noted in the New York Journal American that Malcolm X intended to “make the heavyweight champion an international political figure.” Malcolm and Ali made plans to tour Africa together. Days later on March 8, Elijah Muhammad gave Cassius the name Muhammad Ali and forbade all members to communicate with Malcolm after he was ostracized from the Nation of Islam.
A few months later in May 1964, Muhammad Ali had a chance meeting in Ghana, with his former friend and mentor Malcolm X but he turned his back on him.
“Turning my back on Malcolm,” wrote Ali in his 2004 autobiography The Soul of a Butterfly, “was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I’d been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry, that he was right about so many things. But he was killed before I got the chance… Malcolm was the first to discover the truth, that color doesn’t make you a devil. It is the heart, soul, and mind that define a person. Malcolm was a great thinker and an even greater friend. I might never have become a Muslim if it hadn’t been for Malcolm. If I could go back and do it over again, I would never have turned my back on him.”
Read more about their relationship in the book Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X