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Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics.

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Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics The Berlin Olympics of 1936 were to be the crowning showcase of the National Socialist Government in Germany. They would prove on an international stage that Aryan supremacy was a living reality. The Nazi establishment carefully choreographed the Olympics to support their ideology. Adolf Hitler had planned to use the event to show the supremacy of the nation, especially concentrating on trying to prove that those not of Aryan race were of a lesser breed. There was one thing, however, that they didn't count on - a black man by the name of James Cleveland Owens "A remarkable fact of Jesse Owens becoming one of the most recognisable black athletes is, that as a child he was extremely unhealthy. He suffered from chronic bronchial congestion, which meant difficulty breathing and pneumonia, potentially a life threatening condition." (Jesse Owens Biography) Born James Cleveland Owens in 1913, he established himself as an up and coming athlete at middle school in Cleveland, where his family had moved from Alabama. It was there that he met Charles Riley, who became his coach. " Riley recognized immediately that he had a precocious talent on his hands and immediately began training the youngster in all aspects of athletics." ...read more.


Owens took the advice, and qualified. By the fifth jump the two men were tied at exactly twenty-five feet, ten and a half inches. This was a new Olympic Record. But Owens leaped 26-33/4 on his next attempt and won the gold medal with a final jump of 26-51/2. The first to congratulate the Olympic record holder was Long, the tall, blue eyed, blonde, who looked like the model Nazi but wasn't. The German took the silver medal. The two athletes, one black and one white, then embraced, strolling around the stadium arm in arm. This was definitely not the picture that the Nazis had envisioned. "One German official even complained that the Americans were letting "non-humans, like Owens and other Negro athletes," compete." (Owens Pierced a Myth) "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens said. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace. The sad part of the story is I never saw Long again. ...read more.


He was a true legend in his own time. In February 1979, he returned to the White House, where President Carter presented him with the Living Legend Award. On that occasion, the President said, "A young man who possibly didn't even realize the superb nature of his own capabilities went to the Olympics and performed in a way that I don't believe has ever been equalled since...and since this superb achievement, he has continued in his own dedicated but modest way to inspire others to reach for greatness". (Who is Jesse Owens) Jesse Owens died on March 31, 1980 and President Carter added his voice to the tributes that poured in from around the world. "Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry. His personal triumphs as a world-class athlete and record holder were the prelude to a career devoted to helping others. His work with young athletes, as an unofficial ambassador overseas, and a spokesman for freedom are a rich legacy to his fellow Americans". (ibid) Four years later, a street in Berlin was renamed in his honor. A decade after his death, President Bush 'posthumously' awarded Owens the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bush called his victories in Berlin "an unrivaled athletic triumph, but more than that, a triumph for all humanity. ...read more.

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