Get to Know the Real Muhammad Ali

Join Dr. Michael Ezra for an illustrated lecture on the story of Muhammad Ali, a now iconic figure in the hearts and minds of people around the globe, at the James A. Michener Art Museum, March 20, 3 to 4 pm. Ezra is guest curator of Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon, a photographic exhibit on view at the Museum through May 15.

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) has always engendered an emotional reaction from the public. From his appearance as an Olympic champion to his iconic status as a national hero, his carefully constructed image and controversial persona has always been intensely scrutinized.

A specialist in the African American experience and Civil Rights, Ezra is the author of Muhammad Ali:The Making of an Icon (Temple University Press, 2009). Ezra considers the boxer who calls himself “The Greatest” from a new perspective. He writes about Ali’s pre-championship bouts, the management of his career and his current legacy, exploring the promotional aspects of Ali and how they were wrapped up in political, economic and cultural “ownership.”

The book increases our understanding of how difficult it is to know the real Ali, a simple man paradoxically imbued with great complexity. “Michael Ezra’s rigorously researched and engagingly written book at once illuminates and liberates one of our towering national figures. Stripping away the cant and fuzziness that has grown up around Muhammad Ali, Ezra delivers a fresh, intellectually challenging and ultimately invigorating understanding of the fighter and the man,” writes Richard O’Brien, Boxing Editor, Sports Illustrated.

Ezra’s incisive study examines the relationships between Ali’s cultural appeal and its commercial manifestations. Citing examples of the boxer’s relationship to the Vietnam War and the Nation of Islam—which serve as barometers of his “public moral authority”—Ezra analyzes the difficulties of creating and maintaining these cultural images, as well as the impact these themes have on Ali’s meaning to the public.

Ezra also is the editor of The Civil Rights Movement: People and Perspectives (ABC-CLIO). He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and chairs the Department of Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State in California. Copies of Dr. Ezra’s book, Muhammad Ali:The Making of an Icon, will be available for purchase in the Museum Shop and for signing by the author following the program.

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