Childhood

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Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay Jr., was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY. From an early age, Ali realized there was a great inequality toward the treatment of African-American’s in America.

Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and local artisan, invited his children to help him at work: teaching them to draw and paint from an early age. Odessa Clay, Ali’s mother, was a devout Baptist who took Ali and his younger brother, Rahaman, then Rudolph, to church every Sunday. Odessa instilled a moral identity in her children, and has been credited as the inspiration for Ali’s later humanitarian efforts.

At the age of 13, Ali’s red and white Schwinn bicycle, which had been a recent Christmas present from his father, was stolen outside of Columbia Auditorium. Ali, searching for police to help, found patrolman Joe Martin, off duty, training youth boxers in Columbia Auditorium’s basement gym.

In the years to come, Ali would go on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves Championships, an Olympic Gold Medal, and turned professional with the help of the Louisville Sponsoring Group. Throughout his life, Ali continued to return to Louisville, to inspire its citizens and to reminisce outside of his childhood home, 3302 Grand Ave.