BlackFacts Details

Jesse Owens: Four Time Olympic Gold Medalist

During the 1930s, the Great Depression, Jim Crow Era laws and de facto segregation kept African-Americans in the United States fighting for equality. In Eastern Europe, the Jewish Holocaust was well underway with German ruler Adolf Hitler spearheading a Nazi Regime. 

In 1936, the Summer Olympics were to be played in Germany. Hitler saw this as an opportunity to show the inferiority of non-Aryans.

Yet, a young track and field star from Cleveland, Ohio had other plans. 

His name was Jesse Owens and by the end of the Olympics, hed won four gold medals and refuted Hitlers propaganda. 

On September 12, 1913, James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens was born. Owens’ parents, Henry and Mary Emma were sharecroppers who raised 10 children in Oakville, Ala. By 1920s the Owens family was participating in the Great Migration and settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

Owens interest in running track came while attending middle school.

His gym teacher, Charles Riley, encouraged Owens to join the track team. Riley taught Owens to train for longer races such as the 100 and 200-yard dashes. Riley continued to work with Owens while he was a high school student. With Riley’s guidance, Owens was able to win every race he entered.

By 1932, Owens was preparing to tryout for the U.S. Olympic Team and compete at the Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Yet at the Midwestern preliminary trials, Owens was defeated in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash as well as the long jump. 

Owens did not allow this loss to defeat him. In his senior year of high school, Owens was elected president of the student council and captain of the track team. That year, Owens also placed first in 75 out of 79 races he entered. He also set a new record in the long jump at the interscholastic state finals.

His biggest victory came when he won the long jump, setting a world record in the 220-yard dash and also tied a world record in the 100-yard dash. When Owens returned to Cleveland, he was greeted with a victory parade. 

Owens chose to attend Ohio State University where he could