Joe Louis Barrow was born in a sharecropper's shack in Lexington, Alabama, the seventh of eight children. Two years after his birth his father was committed to Searcy State Hospital for the Colored Insane, where he died twenty years later. Mrs. Barrow remarried a man who had five children of his own, and moved her family in with his. The children slept three to a bed. In 1926, when Joe Louis was twelve, his stepfather moved the family to Detroit and went to work at the Ford plant. Louis was already behind in school, and the transition to a new setting only complicated his education. It seemed clear to teachers that he was not a candidate for graduation, so they referred him to Bronson Trade School, where he stayed until age seventeen, to learn cabinet making. In an attempt to keep her son off the streets, Louis's mother saved up to buy him a violin and pay for music lessons. He took the money and used it to...
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