Featured Exhibit

A young Muhammad with his mother, Odessa Clay, shortly after winning his Olympic Gold Medal, 1960. 

Photograph taken by Thomas Washington and donated to the Muhammad Ali Center in 2016 by Regina Washington-White and Linda Washington-Black. 

Growing Up During Jim Crow

Growing up in the segregated city of Louisville, Kentucky, as a 13-year-old, Muhammad Ali was impacted by the murder that also shocked the core of the Black community and country. Emmet Till was a boy, just a year older than Muhammad Ali at 14, who was visiting family in Money, Mississippi. During this visit, Emmett was beaten beyond recognition by white men claiming that he had an interaction with a white woman. Tortured so badly that he was nearly unrecognizable, Emmett Till's mother bravely decided to have an open casket at her son’s funeral to ensure that the world saw the truth of racism in the United States. At 13 years old, Muhammad saw a front-page story covering the death of Emmett Till. Muhammad described that he felt a sense of connection regarding the life of another Black boy, whose story could truly be the story of so many Black children during this time. In the years to follow, as Muhammad trained as an amateur boxer and attended Louisville's first school for African Americans, Central High School, the city and country began to see a rise in civil rights protest activities.

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