Did any black athletes other than Jesse Owens win any medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

Did any black athletes other than Jesse Owens win any medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics?

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When looking over the famous 1936 Berlin Olympics, I found out that Hitler did not snub Jesse Owens, but did other Olympic winners (though I don't doubt that Jesse would've been snubbed by him in the first place). While Germany won most of the events, how often did they lose to black athletes?

Limiting ourselves to the USA team, there were 18 African-American Olympians on the 1936 USA Olympic Team. These athletes won a total of 13 medals. And in winning these 13 medals, the African-American athletes finished ahead of the top German athlete every time:

  • 100-m dash: Jesse Owens won gold & Ralph Metcalfe won silver. Germany did not win a medal.
  • 200-m dash: Jesse Owens won gold & Mack Robinson won silver. Germany did not win a medal.
  • 400-m dash: Archie Williams won gold & James LuValle won bronze. Germany did not win a medal.
  • 800-m dash: John Woodruff won gold. Germany did not win a medal.
  • 110-m hurdles: Fritz Pollard won bronze. Germany did not win a medal.
  • 4 x 100-m relay: Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe were on the USA team (along with Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff), which won gold. Germany won the bronze medal.
  • Long jump: Jesse Owens won gold. Germany won the silver medal.
  • High jump: Cornelius Johnson won gold, and Dave Albritton won silver. Germany did not win a medal.
  • Bantamweight boxing: "California" Jackie Wilson won silver. Germany did not win a medal.

I did look for athletes with African ancestry from other countries in the 1936 Olympics, but I was unable to find any. Very few African countries participated in the 1936 Olympics (most of them weren't even independent at the time), so any other athletes of African ancestry at these games would probably have been from Canada, a South American country, or possibly Great Britain or France.

EDIT: I managed to find a non-USA athlete of African descent who also won a medal at the 1936 Games: Phil Edwards, who won a bronze medal for Canada in the 800-m dash. As noted above, Germany did not win a medal in that event.

My uncle, "California" Jackie Wilson won the silver medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics at bantamweight.

Jesse Owens wins 4 gold medals at 1936 Summer Olympics

In 1936, Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics.

Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. He and other government officials had high hopes German athletes would dominate the games with victories (the German athletes achieved a top of the table medal haul). Meanwhile, Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of "Aryan racial superiority" and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior. Owens surprised many and showed the fallacies of racial supremacy by winning four gold medals: On August 3, 1936 he won the 100m sprint, defeating Ralph Metcalfe on August 4, the long jump (later crediting friendly and helpful advice from Luz Long, the German competitor he ultimately defeated) on August 5, the 200m sprint and, after he was added to the 4 x 100 m relay team, his fourth on August 9 (a performance not equaled until Carl Lewis won gold medals in the same events at the 1984 Summer Olympics).

Just before the competitions Owens was visited in the Olympic village by Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas. He persuaded Owens to use Adidas shoes and it was the first sponsorship for a male African-American athlete.

The long jump victory is documented, along with many other 1936 events, in the 1938 film Olympia by Leni Riefenstahl.

On the first day, Hitler shook hands only with the German victors and then left the stadium. Olympic committee officials then insisted Hitler greet each and every medalist or none at all. Hitler opted for the latter and skipped all further medal presentations. On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victories, and had refused to shake his hand, Owens recounted:

"When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany.""

He also stated: "Hitler didn't snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." Jesse Owens was never invited to the White House nor bestowed any honors by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) or Harry S. Truman during their terms. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower acknowledged Owens's accomplishments, naming him an "Ambassador of Sports."

Hitler's contempt for Owens and for those races he deemed 'inferior' arose in private, away from maintaining Olympic neutrality. As Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later war armaments minister recollected in his memoirs Inside the Third Reich:

"Each of the German victories and there were a surprising number of these made him happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games.

Despite Hitler's feelings, Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin's Olympic Stadium and later ordinary Germans sought his autograph when they saw him in the streets. Owens was allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels as whites, an irony at the time given that blacks in the United States were denied equal rights. After a New York ticker-tape parade in his honor, Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend his own reception at the Waldorf-Astoria.

It was the summer of 1936 and Nazism was running rampant throughout pre-World War II Eastern Europe. The Olympics were coming to Berlin and Adolf Hitler viewed it as a golden opportunity to showcase his country and prove to the rest of the world that his Aryan race was superior. Not so fast, Adolf.

Twenty-two-year-old American Jesse Owens didn't care much for Hitler's politics—or any politics for that matter. He just wanted to show off his immense skills and represent his country to the best of his abilities. Just over a year earlier, on May 25, 1935, Owens recorded one of the more mind-boggling performances in track and field history. He broke three world records and tied another at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships in Michigan—in just 45 minutes!

Hitler viewed African-Americans as inferior and chastised the United States for stooping to use these "non-humans." Despite the endless racial epithets and the constant presence of the red and black swastika, Owens made Hitler eat his words with four gold medals.
Owens Hits Gold

The first gold was in the 100 meters, where Owens edged out teammate Ralph Metcalfe in a time of 10.3 seconds.

Gold number two came in the long jump, where he fouled on his first two attempts. One was just a practice run where he continued down the runway into the pit, but German officials didn't buy it and counted it as a jump. Top German long jumper Luz Long suggested Owens play it safe and jump a few inches before the usual take-off spot. He took his advice and qualified for the finals, where he won the gold with a leap of 26—5½. And Long was there to congratulate him. "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens would later say. "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."

The third gold was in the 200-meter dash, where he defeated, among others, Jackie Robinson's older brother Mack and broke the Olympic record with a time of 20.7 seconds.

Gold number four was a controversial one—not with the Germans, but with his fellow Americans. American Jews Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were supposed to run for the United States on the 4x100 relay team. At the last minute, they were replaced by Owens and Metcalfe and it was reported that Hitler asked U.S. officials not to embarrass him any further by having two Jews win gold in Berlin. Whether that's true or not, the Owens-led U.S. team rolled to victory in a world record time of 39.8 seconds and Owens' magical Olympics came to a close.

While German officials denounced Owens, an overwhelming majority of the German fans treated him like a hero. In 1984, a street in Berlin was named in his honor.

The Berlin Olympics of 1936 were held in Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, and Hitler's Nazi Party used the event as a soapbox to promulgate the theory of "Aryan" racial superiority. Hitler was spectacularly shown up by Jesse Owens and other African American athletes, members of a so-called "inferior" race. Despite the hostile atmosphere, Owens triumphed in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the broad jump. He replaced a Jewish-American member of the 400-meter relay team that went on to win the Gold Medal. In three of his events, Owens -- who became the first American in the history of track and field to win four gold medals in a single Olympics, a feat not duplicated until 1984, when Carl Lewis won gold medals in the same events at the Warsaw Pact nations-free 1984 Summer Olympics) -- established Olympic records. Although Hitler did not shake his hand, by the end of the games, the German fans cheered for him. In fact, in his 1970 autobiography "The Jesse Owens Story", Owens claimed that the Fuhrer himself waved to him.

1936 Berlin Medal Tally

Here are the top 10 ranked countries based on Olympic medals won in 1936. As per tradition, the ranking order is based first on the number of gold medals, then silver and bronze. See more about the Berlin Games in 1936.

In 1936, the leader on the medal table was host country Germany.

rank Country Gold Silver Bronze total
1 Germany 33 26 30 89
2 USA 24 20 12 56
3 Hungary 10 1 5 16
4 Italy 8 9 5 22
5 Finland 7 6 6 19
6 France 7 6 6 19
7 Sweden 6 5 9 20
8 Japan 6 4 8 18
9 Netherlands 6 4 7 17
10 Great Britain 4 7 3 14

Berlin 1936 Olympic Games

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Berlin 1936 Olympic Games, athletic festival held in Berlin that took place August 1–16, 1936. The Berlin Games were the 10th occurrence of the modern Olympic Games.

The 1936 Olympics were held in a tense, politically charged atmosphere. The Nazi Party had risen to power in 1933, two years after Berlin was awarded the Games, and its racist policies led to international debate about a boycott of the Games. Fearing a mass boycott, the International Olympic Committee pressured the German government and received assurances that qualified Jewish athletes would be part of the German team and that the Games would not be used to promote Nazi ideology. Adolf Hitler’s government, however, routinely failed to deliver on such promises. Only one athlete of Jewish descent was a member of the German team (see Sidebar: Helene Mayer: Fencing for the Führer) pamphlets and speeches about the natural superiority of the Aryan race were commonplace and the Reich Sports Field, a newly constructed sports complex that covered 325 acres (131.5 hectares) and included four stadiums, was draped in Nazi banners and symbols. Nonetheless, the attraction of a spirited sports competition was too great, and in the end 49 countries chose to attend the Olympic Games in Berlin.

The Berlin Olympics also featured advancements in media coverage. It was the first Olympic competition to use telex transmissions of results, and zeppelins were used to quickly transport newsreel footage to other European cities. The Games were televised for the first time, transmitted by closed circuit to specially equipped theatres in Berlin. The 1936 Games also introduced the torch relay by which the Olympic flame is transported from Greece.

Nearly 4,000 athletes competed in 129 events. The track-and-field competition starred American Jesse Owens, who won three individual gold medals and a fourth as a member of the triumphant U.S. 4 × 100-metre relay team. Altogether Owens and his teammates won 12 men’s track-and-field gold medals the success of Owens and the other African American athletes, referred to as “black auxiliaries” by the Nazi press, was considered a particular blow to Hitler’s Aryan ideals. See also Sidebar: Sohn Kee-chung: The Defiant One.

However, the Germans did win the most medals overall, dominating the gymnastics, rowing, and equestrian events. Hendrika (“Rie”) Mastenbroek of the Netherlands won three gold medals and a silver in the swimming competition. Basketball, an Olympic event for the first time in 1936, was won by the U.S. team. Canoeing also debuted as an Olympic sport.

The 1940 and 1944 Games, scheduled for Helsinki (originally slated for Tokyo) and London, respectively, were canceled because of World War II.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Jesse Owens, originally known as J.C., was the youngest of ten children (three girls and seven boys) born to Henry Cleveland Owens (a sharecropper) and Mary Emma Fitzgerald in Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913. He was the grandson of a slave. [3] At the age of nine, he and his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for better opportunities, as part of the Great Migration, when 1.5 million African Americans left the segregated South for the urban and industrial North. When his new teacher asked his name (to enter in her roll book), he said "J.C.", but because of his strong Southern accent, she thought he said "Jesse". The name stuck, and he was known as Jesse Owens for the rest of his life. [7]

As a youth, Owens took different menial jobs in his spare time: he delivered groceries, loaded freight cars and worked in a shoe repair shop while his father and older brother worked at a steel mill. [8] During this period, Owens realized that he had a passion for running. Throughout his life, Owens attributed the success of his athletic career to the encouragement of Charles Riley, his junior high school track coach at Fairmount Junior High School. Since Owens worked in a shoe repair shop after school, Riley allowed him to practice before school instead.

Owens and Minnie Ruth Solomon (1915–2001) met at Fairmont Junior High School in Cleveland when he was 15 and she was 13. They dated steadily through high school. Ruth gave birth to their first daughter, Gloria, in 1932. They married on July 5, 1935 and had two more daughters together — Marlene, born in 1937, and Beverly, born in 1940. They remained married until his death in 1980. [9] [10]

Owens first came to national attention when he was a student of East Technical High School in Cleveland he equaled the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100 yards (91 m) dash and long-jumped 24 feet 9 + 1 ⁄ 2 inches (7.56 m) at the 1933 National High School Championship in Chicago. [11]

Ohio State University

Owens attended the Ohio State University after his father found employment, which ensured that the family could be supported. [12] Affectionately known as the "Buckeye Bullet" and under the coaching of Larry Snyder, Owens won a record eight individual NCAA championships, four each in 1935 and 1936. [5] (The record of four gold medals at the NCAA was equaled only by Xavier Carter in 2006, although his many titles also included relay medals). [13] Though Owens enjoyed athletic success, he had to live off campus with other African-American athletes. When he traveled with the team, Owens was restricted to ordering carry-out or eating at "blacks-only" restaurants. Similarly, he had to stay at "blacks-only" hotels. Owens did not receive a scholarship for his efforts, so he continued to work part-time jobs to pay for school. [14]

Day of days

1936 Berlin Summer Olympics

On December 4, 1935, NAACP Secretary Walter Francis White wrote a letter to Owens but never sent it. [17] He was trying to dissuade Owens from taking part in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany, arguing that an African American should not promote a racist regime after what his race had suffered at the hands of white racists in his own country. In the months prior to the Games, a movement gained momentum in favor of a boycott. Owens was convinced by the NAACP to declare: "If there are minorities in Germany who are being discriminated against, the United States should withdraw from the 1936 Olympics". Yet he and others eventually took part after Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee branded them "un-American agitators". [18]

In 1936, Owens and his United States teammates sailed on the SS Manhattan and arrived in Germany to compete at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. According to fellow American sprinter James LuValle, who won the bronze in the 400 meters, Owens arrived at the new Olympic stadium to a throng of fans, many of them young girls yelling "Wo ist Jesse? Wo ist Jesse?" ("Where is Jesse? Where is Jesse?"). [19] Just before the competitions, founder of Adidas athletic shoe company Adi Dassler visited Owens in the Olympic village and persuaded Owens to wear Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes this was the first sponsorship for a male African American athlete. [20]

On August 3, Owens won the 100 m dash [21] with a time of 10.3 seconds, defeating a teammate and a college friend [2] Ralph Metcalfe by a tenth of a second and defeating Tinus Osendarp of the Netherlands by two tenths of a second. On August 4, he won the long jump with a leap of 8.06 metres (26 ft 5 in) (3¼ inches short of his own world record). He later credited this achievement to the technical advice that he received from Luz Long, the German competitor whom he defeated. [6] On August 5, he won the 200 m sprint with a time of 20.7 seconds, defeating teammate Mack Robinson (the older brother of Jackie Robinson).

On August 9, Owens won his fourth gold medal in the 4 × 100 m sprint relay when head coach Lawson Robertson replaced Jewish-American sprinters Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller with Owens and Ralph Metcalfe, [22] who teamed with Frank Wykoff and Foy Draper to set a world record of 39.8 seconds in the event. [23] Owens had initially protested the last-minute switch, but assistant coach Dean Cromwell said to him, "You'll do as you are told." Owens' record-breaking performance of four gold medals was not equaled until Carl Lewis won gold medals in the same events at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Owens had set the world record in the long jump with a leap of 8.13 m (26 ft 8 in) in 1935, the year before the Berlin Olympics, and this record stood for 25 years until it was broken in 1960 by countryman Ralph Boston. Coincidentally, Owens was a spectator at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome when Boston took the gold medal in the long jump.

The long-jump victory is documented, along with many other 1936 events, in the 1938 film Olympia by Leni Riefenstahl. On August 1, 1936, Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler shook hands with the German victors only and then left the stadium. International Olympic Committee president Henri de Baillet-Latour insisted that Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler opted for the latter and skipped all further medal presentations. [24] [25]

Owens first competed on Day 2 (August 2), running in the first (10:30 a.m.) and second (3:00 p.m.) qualifying rounds for the 100 meters final he equaled the Olympic and world record in the first race and broke them in the second race, but the new time was not recognized, because it was wind-assisted. [26] Later the same day, Owens's African-American team-mate Cornelius Johnson won gold in the high jump final (which began at 5:00 p.m.) with a new Olympic record of 2.03 meters. [27] Hitler did not publicly congratulate any of the medal winners this time even so, the communist New York City newspaper the Daily Worker claimed Hitler received all the track winners except Johnson and left the stadium as a "deliberate snub" after watching Johnson's winning jump. [28] Hitler was subsequently accused of failing to acknowledge Owens (who won gold medals on August 3, 4 (two), and 9) or shake his hand. Owens responded to these claims at the time:

Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters [race began at 5:45 p.m. [29] ]. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the "man of the hour" in another country. [30] [31]

In an article dated August 4, 1936, the African-American newspaper editor Robert L. Vann describes witnessing Hitler "salute" Owens for having won gold in the 100m sprint (August 3):

And then… wonder of wonders… I saw Herr Adolph [sic] Hitler, salute this lad. I looked on with a heart which beat proudly as the lad who was crowned king of the 100 meters event, get an ovation the like of which I have never heard before. I saw Jesse Owens greeted by the Grand Chancellor of this country as a brilliant sun peeped out through the clouds. I saw a vast crowd of some 85,000 or 90,000 people stand up and cheer him to the echo. [32]

In 2014, Eric Brown, British fighter pilot and test pilot, the Fleet Air Arm's most decorated living pilot, [33] stated in a BBC documentary: "I actually witnessed Hitler shaking hands with Jesse Owens and congratulating him on what he had achieved". [34] Additionally, an article in The Baltimore Sun in August 1936 reported that Hitler sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself. [35] Later, on October 15, 1936, Owens repeated this allegation when he addressed an audience of African Americans at a Republican rally in Kansas City, remarking: "Hitler didn't snub me—it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." [36] [37]

Owens's success at the games caused consternation for Hitler, who was using them to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. [38] He and other government officials had hoped that German athletes would dominate the games. [38] [39] Nazi minister Albert Speer wrote that Hitler "was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games." [40]

In Germany, Owens had been allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels as whites, at a time when African Americans in many parts of the United States, chiefly in the South, had to stay in segregated hotels that accommodated only blacks. [41] When Owens returned to the United States, he was greeted in New York City by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. [42] During a Manhattan ticker-tape parade [43] in his honor along Broadway's Canyon of Heroes, someone handed Owens a paper bag. Owens paid it little mind until the parade concluded. When he opened it up, he found that the bag contained $10,000 in cash. Owens's wife Ruth later said: "And he [Owens] didn't know who was good enough to do a thing like that. And with all the excitement around, he didn't pick it up right away. He didn't pick it up until he got ready to get out of the car". [44]

After the parade, Owens was not permitted to enter through the main doors of the Waldorf Astoria New York and instead forced to travel up to the reception honoring him in a freight elevator. [41] [45] President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) never invited Jesse Owens to the White House following his triumphs at the Olympic Games. [46] When the Democrats bid for his support, Owens rejected those overtures: as a staunch Republican, he endorsed Alf Landon, Roosevelt's Republican opponent in the 1936 presidential race. [47] [48]

Owens joined the Republican Party after returning from Europe and was paid to campaign for African American votes for the Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential election. [49] [50] Speaking at a Republican rally held in Baltimore on October 9, 1936, Owens said: "Some people say Hitler snubbed me. But I tell you, Hitler did not snub me. I am not knocking the President. Remember, I am not a politician, but remember that the President did not send me a message of congratulations because, people said, he was too busy." [51] [52]

Owens was quoted saying the secret behind his success was, "I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up." [53] [54]

After the games had ended, the entire Olympic team was invited to compete in Sweden. Owens decided to capitalize on his success by returning to the United States to take up some of the more lucrative endorsement offers. United States athletic officials were furious and withdrew his amateur status, which immediately ended his career. Owens was angry and stated that "A fellow desires something for himself." [55] Owens argued that the racial discrimination he had faced throughout his athletic career, such as not being eligible for scholarships in college and therefore being unable to take classes between training and working to pay his way, meant he had to give up on amateur athletics in pursuit of financial gain elsewhere. [56]

Owens returned home from the 1936 Olympics with four gold medals and international fame, yet had difficulty finding work. He took on menial jobs as a gas station attendant, playground janitor, and manager of a dry cleaning firm. He also raced against amateurs and horses for cash. [57]

Owens was prohibited from making appearances at amateur sporting events to bolster his profile, and he found out that the commercial offers had all but disappeared. In 1937, he briefly toured with a twelve-piece jazz band under contract with Consolidated Artists but found it unfulfilling. He also made appearances at baseball games and other events. [58] Finally, Willis Ward—a friend and former competitor from the University of Michigan—brought Owens to Detroit in 1942 to work at Ford Motor Company as Assistant Personnel Director. Owens later became a director, in which capacity he worked until 1946.

In 1946, Owens joined Abe Saperstein in the formation of the West Coast Negro Baseball League, a new Negro baseball league Owens was Vice-President and the owner of the Portland (Oregon) Rosebuds franchise. [59] He toured with the Rosebuds, sometimes entertaining the audience in between doubleheader games by competing in races against horses. [60] The WCBA disbanded after only two months. [59] [60]

Owens helped promote the exploitation film Mom and Dad in African American neighborhoods. [61] He tried to make a living as a sports promoter, essentially an entertainer. He would give local sprinters a ten- or twenty-yard start and beat them in the 100-yd (91-m) dash. He also challenged and defeated racehorses as he revealed later, the trick was to race a high-strung Thoroughbred that would be frightened by the starter's shotgun and give him a bad jump. Owens said, "People say that it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals." [62] On the lack of opportunities, Owens added, "There was no television, no big advertising, no endorsements then. Not for a black man, anyway." [56]

He traveled to Rome for the 1960 Summer Olympics where he met the 1960 100 meters champion Armin Hary of Germany, who had defeated American Dave Sime in a photo finish. [63]

In 1965, Owens was hired as a running instructor for spring training for the New York Mets. [64]

Owens ran a dry cleaning business and worked as a gas station attendant to earn a living, but he eventually filed for bankruptcy. In 1966, he was successfully prosecuted for tax evasion. [65] At rock bottom, he was aided in beginning his rehabilitation. The government appointed him as a US goodwill ambassador. Owens traveled the world and spoke to companies such as the Ford Motor Company and stakeholders such as the United States Olympic Committee. [66] After he retired, he owned racehorses.

Owens initially refused to support the black power salute by African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics. He told them: [67]

The black fist is a meaningless symbol. When you open it, you have nothing but fingers – weak, empty fingers. The only time the black fist has significance is when there's money inside. There's where the power lies.

Four years later in his 1972 book I Have Changed, he revised his opinion:

I realized now that militancy in the best sense of the word was the only answer where the black man was concerned, that any black man who wasn't a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward.

Owens traveled to Munich for the 1972 Summer Olympics as a special guest of the West German government, [68] meeting West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and former boxer Max Schmeling. [69]

A few months before his death, Owens had unsuccessfully tried to convince President Jimmy Carter to withdraw his demand that the United States boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He argued that the Olympic ideal was supposed to be observed as a time-out from war and that it was above politics. [70]


Owens was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker for 35 years, starting at age 32. [71] Beginning in December 1979, he was hospitalized on and off with an extremely aggressive and drug-resistant type of lung cancer. He died of the disease at age 66 in Tucson, Arizona, on March 31, 1980, with his wife and other family members at his bedside. [72] He was buried at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. The grave is inscribed "Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Champion" and is set against the backdrop of the lake in the cemetery.

Although Jimmy Carter had ignored Owens' request to cancel the Olympic boycott, the president issued a tribute to Owens after he died: "Perhaps no athlete better symbolized the human struggle against tyranny, poverty and racial bigotry."

The dormitory that Owens occupied during the Berlin Olympics has been fully restored into a living museum, with pictures of his accomplishments at the games, and a letter (intercepted by the Gestapo) from a fan urging him not to shake hands with Hitler. [73] In 2016, the 1936 Olympic journey of the eighteen Black American athletes, including Owens, was documented in the film Olympic Pride, American Prejudice. [74]

  • 1936: AP Athlete of the Year (Male) [75]
  • 1936: four English oak saplings, one for each Olympic gold medal, from the German Olympic Committee, planted. One of the trees was planted at the University of Southern California, one at Rhodes High School in Cleveland, where he trained, and one is rumored to be on the Ohio State University campus but has yet to be identified. The fourth tree was at the home of Jesse Owens' mother but was removed when the house was demolished. [76]
  • 1970: inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. [77]
  • 1976: awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford. [77][78]
  • 1976: inducted into Silver Olympic Order for his quadruple victory in the 1936 games and his defense of sport and the ethics of sport. [79]
  • 1979: awarded Living Legend Award by President Jimmy Carter. [80]
  • 1980: asteroid newly discovered by Antonín Mrkos at the Kleť Observatory named 6758 Jesseowens. [81]
  • 1981: USA Track and Field created the Jesse Owens Award which is given annually to the country's top track and field athlete. [82]
  • 1983: part of inaugural class into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. [83][84]
  • 1984: street south of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin renamed Jesse-Owens-Allee [78][85][86]
  • 1984: secondary school Jesse Owens Realschule/Oberschule in Lichtenberg, Berlin named for Owens. [86]
  • March 28, 1990: posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H. W. Bush. [87]
  • 1990 and 1998: two U.S. postage stamps have been issued to honor Owens, one in each year. [86]
  • 1996: Owens' hometown of Oakville, Alabama, dedicated the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum in his honor at the same time that the Olympic Torch came through the community, 60 years after his Olympic wins. An article in the Wall Street Journal of June 7, 1996, covered the event and included this inscription written by poet Charles Ghigna that appears on a bronze plaque at the park: [88][89]

May this light shine forever
as a symbol to all who run
for the freedom of sport,
for the spirit of humanity,
for the memory of Jesse Owens.


The Berlin Games are best remembered for Adolf Hitler’s failed attempt to use them to prove his theories of Aryan racial superiority. As it turned out, the most popular hero of the Games was the African-American sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

Television Coverage

The 1936 Games were the first to be broadcast on television. Twenty-five television viewing rooms were set up in the Greater Berlin area, allowing the locals to follow the Games free of charge.

Young Olympians

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie Gestring of the U.S. won the gold medal in springboard diving. She remains the youngest female gold medallist in the history of the Summer Olympic Games. Twelve-year-old Inge Sorensen of Denmark earned a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke, making her the youngest medallist ever in an individual event.

Debuts and Firsts

Basketball, canoeing and field handball all made their first appearances.

Athletes: 3,963 (331 women, 3,632 men)

Events: 129

Volunteers: N/A

The Symbol of Fire

These Games saw the introduction of the torch relay based on an idea by Dr Carl Diem. A lit torch was carried from Olympia to the site of the Games through seven countries—Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany: a total journey of more than 3,000 km.

Leni Riefenstahl’s Official Film

“Olympia” is a film that is radically different from all those made about sport before it. The director chose to highlight the aesthetics of the body by filming it from every angle. This film brought about new perspectives in cinematography and still remains without equal.

The Prizes

Apart from medals, the athletes received a winner's crown and an oak tree in a pot.


More than four million tickets sold.

Twelve Years from Berlin to London

As with World War I, the outbreak of hostilities, first in Japan and China and then in Europe, would make it impossible for the Games of the XII and XIII Olympiads to be held in 1940 and 1944, respectively. In fact, it would be 12 years before the Olympic flame would once again burn in an Olympic stadium, in London, in 1948.


Berlin 1936. Arrival of the Olympic Flame at the Olympic Stadium.

Official Opening of the Games by:

Lighting the Olympic Flame by:

Olympic Oath by:

Rudolf Ismayr (weightlifting)

Officials' Oath by:

The officials' oath at an Olympic Summer Games was first sworn in 1972 in Munich.

Jesse Owens: A Historic Trailblazer & Game Changer

It is one thing to go against all odds and become an Olympian. It is something else entirely to go against the entire world.

This is precisely what Jesse Owens did in 1936.

In a world that doubted the athleticism of individuals on the basis of their skin color, Jesse Owens boldly won four Olympic Gold Medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Why is this moment significant? And how did he get here?

Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama in 1913. His family moved to Ohio, where he would begin to build up his athletics career. Appropriately nicknamed "The Buckeye Bullet,” Owens brought speed to Cleveland. Competing for his high school in Ohio, Owens won 3 events at the 1933 National Interscholastic Champions.

He continued his academic and athletic career at Ohio State University. In college, he pursued track & field with vigor and remained a stand-out competitor. In the Big Ten Conference in 1935, Owens equaled the world record for the 100-yard dash (9.4 sec) and broke the world records for the 220-yard dash (20.3 sec), the 220-yard low hurdles (22.6 sec), and the long jump (8.13 metres / 26.67 feet]).

With such a phenomenal performance under his belt, he was ready for the Olympic stage.

However, these games were different than any before. The Nazi party had taken control of Germany in 1934, and all power in Germany was centralized in Hitler’s person. As such, the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were designed to be a German showcase and a statement for Aryan supremacy.

Hitler criticized America for including Black athletes on its Olympic roster. It was in these very games that a Black man would win 4 Olympic Gold medals for the United States.

Owens competed in the 100m, 200m, long jump, and relay teams for the United States in the 1936 Olympic Games. He won the gold medal in each event he competed. His performances were spectacular, with a 100-metre run of 10.3 seconds (an Olympic record), a 200-metre run of 20.7 seconds (a world record), a long jump of 8.06 meters ( 26.4 feet), and winning 4 × 100-meter relay (39.8 sec).

This performance is one of legendary proportion. In addition to wining four gold medals, he established a record for the long jump that stood for 25 years. This would be broken by fellow United States athlete, Ralph Boston, in 1960.

Although Owens helped ensure that the United States triumphed at the games, he was not met with a celebratory return. The president at the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, did not congratulate Owens. This was atypical behavior for champions at the time. In fact, Owens would not be truly recognized for his athletic feats until 1976. Under President Gerald Ford, Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After 1936 Olympic Games, Owens retired from athletics. He used his speed and physical prowess to earn money in other means, such as by racing cars and horses. He even played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters. Owens eventually found his calling in public relations and marketing, and he set up a business in Chicago.

Beginning in December 1979, he was hospitalized on and off with lung cancer. He later passed away in 1980. However, Owens’ legacy outlives him. For his phenomenal, stereotype defining performance in the 1936 Olympic Games, he is truly a legend who shaped the game of track and field. Paving the way for all people to be considered for their athletic merit.


Kaufman, Mervyn, Jesse Owens, Crowell, 1973.


Ebony, September 1988.

Jet, August 1, 1989 April 16, 1990.

Newsweek, April 14, 1980.

New York Times, July 6, 1954 April 1, 1980 April 5, 1980.

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10 Greatest Olympic Athletes

On August 9, 1936, Clevelander and Ohio State University athlete James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens won his 4th Gold Medal at the 1936 Olympics, by anchoring the 4 X 100 m relay, winning in a world record time of 39.8 seconds. An international sensation, Owens was not even the first Olympic athlete to win 4 Gold Medals in an Olympics! Here we list 10 Greatest Olympic Athletes, or at least as we see it. (No special order to the list.)

Digging Deeper

1. Jesse Owens, 1936.

Not only a spectacular performance at the 1936 Olympics, but Owens also set the long jump world record in 1935 and it lasted until 1960 when US Olympian Ralph Boston finally broke the enduring record. Owens of the US team was provided a pair of Adidas track shoes for the 1936 Olympics, the first time an African-American sponsored a product at the Olympics. The 4 events won by Owens in 1936 were the 100 m dash, the 200 m dash, the long jump, and the 4 X 100 m relay.

2. Carl Schuhman, 1936.

This German athlete set a high bar for those Olympians that followed by winning 4 Gold Medals in the first Modern Olympics in 1896. Incredibly, this wunderkind competed in the Team Horizontal Bar, Team Parallel Bars, and Individual Horse Vault, winning Gold in those 3 events. He also competed in, but did not win, in the Individual Pommel Horse, Individual Parallel Bars, Individual Horizontal Bar, and Individual Rings. For gymnasts to compete in many gymnastic events is not unusual, but Carl also competed in the completely unrelated event of Greco-Roman Wrestling, in which he won another Gold Medal! Carl narrowly missed medaling in 3 different sports when he came in 4 th in weightlifting. For any Olympian to compete in 2 different sports is rare, but to get Gold Medals in 2 sports and compete in 3 completely different sports is unheard of. With so many talents he could easily tip WWE betting odds.

3. Carl Lewis, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996.

It is rare enough for an athlete to compete in 4 separate Olympics, but not only did track and field legend Carl Lewis of the USA compete in 4 different Olympics, he won at least 1 Gold Medal in each one, for a total of 9 Olympic Gold Medals (tied with 3 other athletes for 2 nd place all-time) and 1 Olympic Silver Medal. His best Olympic Games was the 1984 event in which he matched Jesse Owens’ feat of 1936, winning Gold in the 100 m dash, 200 m dash, 4 X 100 m relay, and long jump. Obviously, Lewis excelled in other than the Olympic Games, with 8 World Championship Gold Medals and setting several world records along the way. His Indoor Long Jump World Record has stood since 1984! Lewis is 1 of only 3 Olympians to win a Gold Medal in the same event (Long Jump in 4 consecutive Olympics. Lewis would have competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but the US boycotted those games. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee voted Lewis the Sportsman of the Century,the IAAF elected Lewis World Athlete of the Century, and Sports Illustrated named him Olympian of the Century.

4. Mark Spitz, 1968,1972.

The all-time leading winner of Olympic medals among Jewish athletes, Spitz won a total of 9 Olympic Gold Medals to go with his single Bronze and Silver Olympic Medals. In 1972, Spitz won a then record 7 Gold Medals in 7 events entered (swimming), and every performance set a World Record. His mark of 7 Golds in a single Olympic Games stood until Michael Phelps won 8 Gold Medals in 2008. Incredibly, Spitz was reportedly disappointed with his performance at the 1968 Olympics, in which he won 2 Gold Medals, a Silver Medal and a Bronze Medal!

5. Michael Phelps, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016.

The first American male swimmer to qualify for and compete in 5 Olympic Games, Phelps is the winningest Olympian of all-time, with a stunning 23 Olympic Gold Medals (13 in individual events) and a total of 28 Olympic Medals. At the 2008 Olympic Games, Phelps set the record of winning 8 Gold Medals in a single Olympics. In 2000, Phelps was only 15 when he qualified for and competed in the Olympics for the US team, the youngest US Olympian in since 1932. After the 2012 Olympics, the weary Phelps announced his retirement, but he changed his mind and came back for the 2016 Olympic Games, winning an additional 5 Gold Medals and a Silver Medal to add to his haul of the precious metals. During his swimming career, Phelps set 39 World Records, which is in fact a World Record in itself! That is a level of performance that can sway even the best betting offers!

6. Larisa Latynina, 1956, 1960, 1964.

This Ukrainian woman competing as a Soviet Union gymnast has the female record for Olympic Gold Medals at 9 (tied with 3 other male athletes for 2 nd most Olympic Golds all-time), and earned a total of 18 Olympic Medals. Larisa’s 9 Olympic Gold Medals are the most ever won by an Olympic Gymnast of either sex. Her record of 18 total Olympic Medals stood from 1964 until beaten by Michael Phelps in 2012. Larisa is arguably the Greatest Female Olympian (at least by this author’s standards).

7. Ole Einar Bjorndalen, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014.

Holy Biathlon, Batman! Ole competed in 6 consecutive Winter Olympics, winning a Winter Olympics record 13 Olympic Medals, including 8 Winter Olympics Gold Medals. Competing in the incredibly arduous skiing and shooting event known as Biathlon, Ole is the most accomplished competitor in the history of that sport. To go with his Olympic success, Ole has also won 45 World Championship Medals, including 20 World Championship Gold Medals and 6 World Cup titles. No surprise that this Norwegian is known as “The King of Biathlon” and is the winningest Winter Olympics athlete of all-time.

8. Paavo Nurmi, 1920, 1924, 1928.

Known as “The Flying Finn,” this Finnish runner sure could finish a race! He won an Olympic second best 9 Gold Medals (tied with 3 other athletes for 2 nd all-time) and a total of 12 Olympic Medals (3 were Silver Medals). At one stretch Paavo won 121 races of 800 or more meters in a row, and was unbeaten over his entire career (14 years) in Cross Country and the 10,000 m race. Nurmi achieved fame by setting the world record in the mile, the 5000 m and 10,000 m runs and holding those records all at the same time (1923), a feat never matched. In all, Nurmi set official world records 22 times, and added unofficial records for a total of 58 world records. Nurmi would have competed in the 1932 Olympic Games, but was disqualified in a controversial decision that questioned his amateur status. Nurmi is such a national hero in Finland that his portrait appears on their 10 Mark bill!

9. Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh-Jennings, 2004, 2008, 2012.

This dynamic duo won the Gold Medal at 3 consecutive Olympic Games in Beach Volleyball, an incredible synergistic combination of 2 athletes forming an unbeatable team. In the 2012 Olympics they extended their unbeaten streak to 32 consecutive sets until losing a set to the Schwaiger sisters from the Austrian team, but went on to win the match and a 3 rd Olympic Gold Medal. Walsh-Jennings (6’3”) and May-Treanor (5’9”) both also competed in the 2000 Olympics with different partners and neither medaled. Walsh-Jennings competed in the 2016 Olympics with a different partner (May-Treanor had retired) and won an Olympic Bronze Medal.

10. Venus and Serena Williams, 2000, 2008, 2012.

These fantastic American sisters have won 3 Olympic Gold Medals in Women’s Doubles Tennis, and may well have won a 4 th in 2004 but for Serena not being able to compete due to injury. They each have an Olympic Gold in Women’s Singles Tennis for their individual efforts. Of course, they have had stunning success in non-Olympic events as well, with 30 Grand Slam Women’s Singles titles between them and 14 Grand Slam Women’s Doubles titles together. Additionally, Venus added an Olympic Silver Medal in Mixed Doubles Tennis in 2016. They are the most successful female Olympians in the sport of tennis in Olympic history. They are arguably the Greatest Sister Athletes of All-Time (according to moi).

Question for students (and subscribers): Please nominate those athletes you think deserve inclusion in such a list in the comments section below this article.

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Olympia, a Remarkable Film

No story of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic games would be complete without a short discussion of Leni Riefenstahl’s epic motion picture production Olympia. Leni Riefenstahl was born in 1902 and quickly became interested in filming and making films. In her early years, Riefenstahl had in fact a very fast growth path in the German film industry. In 1933, she filmed the Nürnberg party rally and did an exceptional job in editing the final version. Hitler was so impressed with her efforts that he made her the motion picture specialist of the NSDAP. In 1934, she outdid herself and produced the film Triumph of the Will, the story of the September Nürnberg party rally.

Her filming expertise not only impressed Hitler, but it also impressed the IOC. They commissioned Leni Riefenstahl to produce a documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. The film was released in 1938 (it took her over 18 months to edit the final version) and when it was released, Olympia became a definitive standard for all future sports documentaries for a long time.

To produce Olympia, Riefenstahl experimented with anything and everything available to her. Camera operators were placed into foxholes and trenches so they could film the Olympic athletes and thus minimize the disruptions to their levels of concentration. She used miniature cameras in situations where a human camera operator was not a practical solution. Camera units were placed on rails and they followed the athletes around the track as they ran. Additional camera operators were allowed to roam around in the audience to get good emotional and crowd reaction shots. During diving meets a camera operator dove alongside the diver both above and below the water. This was quite a feat since the diver had to not only dive and swim, he had to keep the camera steady and maintain a good focus on the subject (only a token percentage of that footage was of any use).

Jesse Owens: A Lasting Legend

More than 75 years after he raced at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens is still seen as a national hero, having become the first person ever to win four gold medals at one time in Olympic track history. With his victories at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games, his fame was quickly established. These feats soon became legendary, however, because they were accomplished in front of Germany’s Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler, who was loudly proclaiming to the world the superiority of the Aryan race. Almost overnight, Owens, an African American who had grown up in Cleveland, Ohio and studied at The Ohio State University, became an international celebrity for putting a chink in Hitler’s propaganda machine. Owens was only 22 when he became an Olympic hero, and he never again competed as an amateur athlete. He spent the rest of his life in a variety of ways: running several businesses, raising a family, promoting the Olympics, and volunteering his time as an advocate for children. Still, he always will be remembered for his celebrated triumphs – both on and off the track – at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Watch the video: RACISM IN RUSSIA? Traveling While Black in Russia. African American Travel


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