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Submitted: September 12, 2016

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Submitted: September 12, 2016






November 1980, my sister purchased 2 pieces of artwork by Muhammad Ali (see below) at the “Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd.” gallery in New York from Joanne Mayhew-Young. 

Fig.1 Fig.2


Both Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 pieces have print signatures and original pencil signatures by Muhammad Ali. Both drawings were once identical, initially entitled "Freedom" and inscribed "Let My People Go".  Fig. 1 is numbered 6.  Parts of Fig. 1 have been removed from Fig. 2.  After 30 years of research, my sister had been unable to find out why.

The drawing on the right (Fig. 2) is famous.  In November 1979, Muhammad Ali donated it to the United Nations Special Committee to fight apartheid in Namibia and dedicated it to freedom of the black people of South Africa.  The U.N. Special Committee reproduced and sold the Fig. 2 drawing in a regular edition of 1000 serigraphs, a deluxe edition of 500 serigraphs and numerous collectable UN Stamps.

Recently, my sister asked me to get involved and help her research Fig. 1 and why it was changed. I started by searching the internet for information and found nothing.  I noticed her receipt from the Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd gallery was signed by Joanne Mayhew-Young (see Fig.3 below). 




I wanted to contact Joanne Mayhew-Young for more information.  I discovered she changed her name in 1982 to Gracie Mansion and that she was still involved in the New York art gallery scene.  So, we sent her an email which led to a phone conversation between her and my sister.  During that conversation, Gracie apologized and said she had very little memory of those pieces, but we should contact someone who would certainly have knowledge.  A New York artist, previous owner of the “Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd.”, current owner of the New York War Museum and good friend of Muhammad Ali…. Rodney Hilton Brown.  She suggested we try contacting him at the New York War Museum.

The photograph below (Fig.4) was taken April 13, 1979 at the U.N presentation ceremony where Muhammad Ali and his friend Rodney Hilton Brown (owner of Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd.) were there to donate a Muhammad Ali drawing entitled “Freedom” to the U.N. Special Committee against Apartheid.

If you look at the art piece in the photograph below (Fig.4), you will see Rodney Hilton Brown is presenting the Fig. 1 drawing at the U.N. Ceremony.  That is the piece of art Ali originally donated. So how can it be that all those Serigraphs produced by the U.N. were of the Fig. 2 drawing.




July 27, 2016, my sister called the War Museum in New York to ask Rodney Hilton Brown this very question.  Rodney Hilton Brown answered the phone and during their conversation he told her that our observation was correct.  Rodney Hilton Brown said he was with Ali at the U.N. to donate the Fig. 1 drawing and he was there when the U.N. committee refused to accept it, claiming it was too offensive. 

Understand, the U.N. is made up of representives from leaders of nations and not the citizens. Mr. Brown witnessed the U.N. Special Committee tell Muhammad Ali to change the Fig. 1 drawing.  Either: 

  1. remove the white man and his caption "I am the white man" or
  2. remove the words “Let My People Go”

Muhammad Ali revised the Fig.1 drawing and removed the white man and his caption "I am the white man" thus becoming the Fig. 2 drawing used by the U.N. to produce serigraphs.




Pictured above (Fig.5) at the press conference are Muhammad Ali and Rodney Hilton Brown. 

Muhammad Ali told the press he would not talk about the evils of South Africa because he said, “Most here knew more than he”(Fig.6).  Ali went on to say, now that he was finished with boxing, he would be forming an organization called the World Organization for Rights, Liberty and Dignity (WORLD) with offices in New York and Los Angeles.  It would be a “Civilian United Nations” (see U.N. press releases below).  The press laughed because they really didn’t understand his comments.  Ali wasn’t joking, he was upset.





Furthermore, in the conversation Mr. Rodney Hilton Brown had with my sister, he told her there were only 25 of the original Fig. 1 edition drawings. In 30 + years he has never seen one surface until recently when one surfaced on EBay.  My sister told him that her brother had bought it (Fig.7), “Let My People Go” #5.  

She asked Mr. Brown if he would send her a letter verifying the story behind these drawings.  He said no, that he was almost done writing a book about the incident and didn’t want to reveal it yet.  He did say if we decided to sell them, the new buyer could call him and he would verify the story is true.

My sister has signed an agreement with Heritage House to auction her Muhammad Ali art work May 2017. They are going to research it, authenticate it and dedicate 1/2 page on it in their May 12, 2017 Sports Collectible Heritage Catalog.

Their research is completed and a preview of the catalog is on their website.  Bidding starts April 19, 2017 and finishes May 12, 2017.

Here is how Heritage describes these 2 pieces:


Rare 1979 Muhammad Ali Signed "Freedom"

Pre-Production Artist Proof Serigraph

(Banned by the United Nations)

& Artist Proof Serigraph.

















Version 1 Version 2

LOT #81836


2017 May 11 - 13 Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction - Dallas #7190

"Rare 1979 Muhammad Ali Signed "Freedom" Pre-Production Artist Proof Serigraph (Banned by the United Nations) & Artist Proof Serigraph. Muhammad Ali's bravery between the ring ropes was matched by his bravery outside of them, particularly in his principled stance against the Vietnam War that robbed him of his Heavyweight Championship and turned him into a national pariah. Here he turns his charming artistic skills toward a commentary on the imperialism of Africa, with two different prints working off two different pieces of original Ali artwork of the same theme.

In April 1979, Ali donated the original artwork entitled "Freedom" to the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid for a free and independent Namibia and dedicated it to the freedom of black people in South Africa. There is a photo of Ali at the press conference with the original artwork. The U.N. refused to accept it, claiming it was too offensive, so Ali revised the drawing by removing the white man and the caption "I am the white man," and then donated the revised version to the U.N. in November 1979. The U.N. then reproduced and sold the revised artwork, issued in limited edition serigraphs of 1,000 (regular edition), 500 (deluxe edition), and 250 (for UN first day of issue stamps).

On offer here are both versions of Ali's historic artwork in rare pre-production proof and artist proof editions.

Version 1 pictures a slave and bars of gold drawn inside the boundaries of the African continent, with pyramids and a sphinx added for effect at the top. A man subjugating the slave with the caption "I am the white man." The bold black Ali signature within the work is part of the print, which reads "Let My People Go." At the bottom, Ali signs in pencil. The back is blank. Number "6" of twenty-five pre-production artist's proofs, it is one of only two examples to have been offered for public sale. Measures 8.5x11.5" on cream-colored art paper. Print and autograph are NRMT.

Version 2 is identical except that the white man and caption have been removed. Also the publisher's blind stamp appears in the lower right corner. Furthermore, the back has a poem by Ali entitled "Freedom," along with "World Federation of United Nations Associations," "Deluxe edition serigraph" and "From a painting by Muhammad Ali (USA)." One of only ten unnumbered artist's proofs, it is one of only two examples to have been offered for public sale. Measures 10.75x14" on heavy gray art paper. Print and autograph are NRMT.

Both prints were originally purchased from the Hilton Fine Arts Ltd. Gallery in New York City and are being consigned by that owner. Comes with 1979 U.N. press release, 1979 news clippings, and 1980 letter from Hilton Fine Arts, Ltd. Matted 22x16.75". Pre-certified by PSA/DNA."














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