David Hannigan Speaks on the Life of Muhammed Ali for Black History Month


Professor David Hannigan giving the lecture on Feb. 27, 2023 in the Babylon Student Center. (Layne Groom/Compass News)

Layne Groom, Editor-in-Chief

History assistant professor David Hannigan discussed in a Feb. 27 lecture Muhammed Ali’s impact on the world, focusing on the former three-time heavyweight champion’s post-boxing career, when he served as a worldwide peace emissary.

The lecture, held in the Babylon Student Center Montauk Point Room and presented by the SCCC Honors College and Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, focused on material from Hannigan’s new book, “Muhammad Ali: Fifteen Rounds in the Wilderness,” which was published in January and covers Ali’s life from 1981-1996. This was when Ali visited many countries that were in the middle of conflict and tried what he could to create peace as a pseudo-correspondent for the United States.

This lecture covered the many things Ali did after his boxing career, focusing on  his impact of world politics and changes he made. This 15 year story jumps from Osama Bin Laden, Donald Trump, Nelson Mandella, Fidel Castro, and Sadam Hussain. 

“I think Mohammed Ali is a truly great American story. He grew up in segregation, fought the civil rights battles of the 60s, embraced Islam — which was so controversial — when Americans didn’t know anything about Islam and probably cost him a lot of money,” Hannigan said.  “He is the great American story.”

Hannigan is an Irish-born professor and journalist who has worked at Suffolk since 2004. He has also published 12 books in his career and writes an American sports column for the Irish Times.

Hannigan said he likes to do lectures like these because he likes for people — “especially young people — to learn about a key figure in American history. [Ali is] an incredible story of struggle and adversity and he embodies everything that we hope for America to be,” Hannigan said.

The Honors College and the Center of Social Justice and Human Understanding frequently team up to host lectures like this one. In November, they hosted a program on “dirty” regimes using sporting events as a way to distract the world from their human rights abuses.

“We want to show students how enriching the honors program is while promoting Black History Month,” said Albin Cofone, head of the College Honors Program.

Jill Santiago, director of the Center of Social Justice and Human Understanding, called Ali “one of the greatest social justice warriors to represent the United States globally. There is no better story of a black man who overcame segregation and the civil rights movement then went on to do even more great work throughout the world.”