Jesse Owens Takes Germany

August 1, 1936. The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Adolf Hitler enters the stadium to a militaristic Wagner march. Swastikas flutter everywhere on the flag of the Nazi Party. When these moments are remembered later, one athlete’s name comes up more than any other: Jesse Owens. He’s a Black American sprinter, a legendary athlete, and one of 18 Black Americans who competed in Hitler’s Olympics. How, through these 1936 Games, does this one man become mythologized? And what is the forgotten context of his storied Olympic wins?


Special thanks to Damion Thomas, curator of sports for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Deborah Riley Draper, director and writer of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice; and Mark Dyreson, director of research and educational programs for the Penn State Center for the Study of Sports in Society.


 

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