New York: 1964. Thirteen gelatin silver prints on 8 x 10 paper, with images roughly 9 ½ x 6 ½, and two contact sheets printed full bleed. Item #CAT0102
A scarce collection of photographs done for Playboy by the photographer Jerry Yulsman, a freelance novelist and photographer best known for his portraits of Jack Kerouac. Yulsman was active in New York in the early 1960s freelancing for magazines such Playboy, Colliers, and Look.
These pictures and the corresponding interview were published in the period just after Ali had joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. Most writers in the press, including those at Playboy, continued to refer to Ali as Cassius Clay. Only a few journalists, Howard Cosell among them, accepted his conversion. Ali would state: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
Ali, then Cassius Clay, first discovered the Nation of Islam in 1959. He attended his first meeting in 1961. Several members of the Nation of Islam, including Malcolm X, were present at Ali’s fights by 1962. He was refused entry into the Nation because of his boxing career. When he defeated Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship in 1964, the Nation of Islam agreed to accept him on March 6 when Elijah Muhammad gave a radio address announcing Clay’s name change.
A fine collection, well preserved, though the two contact sheets do show rippling at edges, with Yulsman’s marks to versos. The interview is included as well. These are from the Playboy archive. Jerry Yulsman died in 1999, and his widow confirmed that the negatives for these prints no longer existed. Three of these pictures were published in the interview, the others are unique and unpublished.