Muhammad Ali was born 1942 on January 17th in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. His parents were Odessa, a house wife and Cassius, Sr. who worked as a billboard painter. He was named after his father, who was named after the 19thcentury abolitionist and politician Cassius Clay. Cassius had a younger brother named Rudolph (Rudy) Clay, who later became Rahman Ali. Even though Clay Sr. was a Methodist, Odessa raised the two boys as Baptist.The family lineage was of pre- civil war slaves. The family was also mixed with some English and Irish ancestry.
Cassius clay experienced everyday prejudices that most African-American boys experienced. Cassius had no idea that his life was about to change through circumstance which could have lead to a less admirable path. At the age of 12, he recalls his bike being stolen as the catalyst of his career choice. He recalls telling a white Louisville police officer, Joe martin that he wanted to find the culprit and beat him up. Joe Martin told this fuming and very determined boy that if he wanted to challenge someone, he would first have to learn how to fight. It just so happened, Martin trained young boxers at a nearby gym. Cassius also trained with a black American coach, Fred Stoner.
He was told he could make at least $4 a week on a local TV show, tomorrow’s Champions, which aired weekly and was hosted by Martin. Cassius would benefit by making money while being trained by Stoner, an even more experienced trainer than Martin. Under Stoners wing Cassius would go on to win not one but six Kentucky titles then two Golden Gloves Titles. He won the Amateur Athletic Union national Title. In 1960 he fought his way to a Gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games. Cassius couldn’t have been happier or more confident in who he was becoming and where he wanted to go. However,when he returned home he got into an altercation at a segregated restaurant with the establishment and a white gang.
In Cassius 1975 autobiography, he talks in detail about feeling angry and disappointed in how so many things he experienced as a child was still very much prevalent and did not discriminate in regards to popularity or talent. He realized black was black in America. In a statement of protest, he threw his Olympic Gold medal into the Ohio River.