Featured Exhibit

Laying the Foundation for Change: Muhammad Ali & the Civil Rights Movement

As the 13th Amendment legally abolished slavery in the United States in 1865, the U.S entered the Reconstruction era from 1865-1877. Reconstruction was a period that followed the Civil War, and a time in which attempts were made to redress the inequities of slavery and its political, social, and economic legacy. Yet, the racial justice advancements of the Reconstruction era would be short-lived, as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the installment of Andrew Johnson as the nation’s next President, strengthened the Southern white movement to advance racial segregation. This movement was codified through the enactment of Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow Laws were state constitutional mandates that legalized segregation based on race. These segregation and disenfranchisement laws that originated as Black Codes, were a system of racial apartheid that dominated the United States from 1876 until 1965.

The Civil Rights Movement, which began in 1955 and ended in 1968, challenged institutionalized racial segregation by implementing strategic protests, marches, sit-ins, and boycotts throughout the South. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, prohibiting discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sex, or national origin. Although the Civil Rights Movement era led to advancements in social justice, it also served as a time for heightened racial discrimination and violent attacks on African Americans. As a young man, Muhammad Ali was greatly impacted the racialized violence he experienced, both directly and indirectly. This timeline will showcase the ways Muhammad Ali was impacted by racial injustice, while also using his voice and platform to show support to the Movement.

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