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Louisville To Do List: Muhammad Ali Center

Last Friday, I fiiiinally crossed off this destination on my Louisville list. I knew very little about Muhammad Ali and prefer many sports to boxing (golf is not one of them). Still, the man is called “The Greatest” for a reason, and I heard positive things about the museum. Here are some highlights:

  • If you are a AAA member, you get a $1 off admission (it’s usually $9 for adults).
  • The visit begins on the fifth floor with an orientation video. It’s very inspiring and may have made me tear up a little.
  • Although the exhibits on Ali’s life and career are text-heavy, there are plenty of videos to break up all the reading
  • Ali did NOT throw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River because he was refused service at a restaurant. It was just misplaced.

My favorite part of the museum was the Howard L. Bingham gallery. Bingham is a photographer and Ali’s best friend. Through the years of their friendship, he has made over a million images of Ali. The gallery highlights his other work — shots from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, protesters at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, a Watts’ resident’s stash of weapons. And then there is a video about Bingham that includes him talking about his friendship with Ali, and this is where I cried again at the Muhammad Ali Center.

I liked that the museum puts Ali’s life into the context of historical events. Rather than just noting that Ali dealt with discrimination in his hometown, there are sections on segregation in Louisville and the Civil Rights movement. Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the army is presented with an overview of the Vietnam War. I can always use a review of anything I learned in history classes.

Even though photography is verboten (I think. I lied when asked if I had any cameras), I took a picture of this on a walkway of drawings on the theme of “What is Your Wish for the World?”

Transient

That’s a good wish.

While I wouldn’t call the Muhammad Ali Center a Louisville Must, I recommend it to anyone with some time and even the slightest  interest. The building is beautiful, and even if you can’t get to the sixth floor, you get lovely views of the river on the other floors. I left with a new respect for Ali — I learned a lot about the man, a little about Louisville, and a little more about history.