American Champion

Muhammad Ali was one of the most photographed figures of the 20th century. Gordon Parks was first sent to profile Ali in 1966 for the Life photo story “The Redemption of a Champion.” Shortly before, the boxer had changed his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. after converting to the Muslim faith. Also at this time, he was garnering public scorn for his opposition to the Vietnam War and for resisting the draft. Despite differences of opinion and Parks’ initial ambivalence about the boxer, the two forged a friendship with Parks becoming somewhat of a father figure to the man. It is said that in these photographs Parks was able to capture the man that Ali was striving to become. The images in the exhibition are from 1966 and 1970 where Parks photographed Ali in Miami, Florida and London, England.