This week in history Jesse Owens broke five world records in a single hour. Jesse Owens rose from the humblest beginnings to become champion of the aspirations of a people and a nation at a time of grave international uncertainty. In the mid-1930s, he was the greatest track and field athlete in the world and captured four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The event was highly charged because of the growing menace of Nazi Germany. This became an important issue in the United States, where many urged the U.S. Olympic Committee to boycott the games. The United States finally decided to participate, and Owens’s performance demonstrated to Germany, and the world, the athletic potential of African Americans. He became a hero in the African American community and won the admiration of many white Americans. Despite his athletic achievements, when Owens returned home, he remained a second-class citizen, subject to legal restrictions in the South and to ingrained discrimination in the North.

Spivey, Donald, and Ameenah Shakir. “Owens, Jesse (1913–1980).” Sports in America from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century: An Encyclopedia. Ed. Steven A. Riess. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 816-818. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web.

To learn more about Jesse Owens and his remarkable achievements, click here.

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