Jesse Owens wins gold in Nazi Germany, 1936

Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler was using games to show the world a revivalist Nazi Germany. Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of "Aryan racial superiority" and portrayed ethnic Africans as inferior. Owens countered this by winning four gold medals.

Nevertheless, Hitler personally wrote a letter to Owens to congratulate him on his resounding victory. This is more than what they have received from US presidents. On the first day of the competition, Hitler only shook hands with the German winners and then left the stadium.

Olympic Committee officials insisted on congratulating Hitler on every medalist or anyone. Hitler opted for the latter and abandoned all further medal productions. On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victory, and refused to shake his hand, Owens said at the time:

"Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It so happened that he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on the way to a broadcast and he Passed by the box. He shook my hand and I backed away. I think it was in bad taste to criticize 'Man of the Hour' in another country."

Many Americans imagined that black athletes would be treated poorly in Berlin, but 100,000 Berliners who chanted "Jess-se o-wens" when winning the 100 meters proved to be the opposite. Owens and his black peers enjoyed freedom of movement and equality rarely experienced in the states.

The Nazis wanted to use the Olympics to represent a renewed Germany to the world. International Olympic boycott movements had jeopardized the opportunity.

As a result, the Olympic Village was integrated and all racist propaganda was suspended for the duration of the Games. An African-American journalist, Robert van, wrote: “These German people are very nice. He has sportsmanship and a sense of fair play that transcends colour-barriers”.

However, this pink picture of Berlin in 1936 was not conducive to outlining the struggle between opposing political ideologies. In fact, the tolerant Berlin that Van reported on was built specifically for the duration of the Olympics at the behest of Goebbels and the Reich Ministry of Public Knowledge and Propaganda. Anti-Semitic posters and publications were removed from the streets. The buildings were white-washed and painted. Public persecution of Jewish Berliners was prohibited.

During the Olympics, Owens was allowed to travel with whites in Germany and stay in the same hotel, while African-Americans in many parts of the United States at the time had to stay in different hotels when traveling. Owens later said:

"When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't stay where I wanted. I had to shake hands with Hitler. I wasn't invited to the White House, but I wasn't even invited to shake hands with the President at the White House. Hitler didn't rebuke me - Roosevelt rebuffed me. The President didn't even send me a telegram."

The four-time gold medalist was a national hero, but he was a black national hero. Upon Owens' return from Europe, he and his family had a hard time finding a hotel in Manhattan.

The Chicago defender commented: "The arms of America's welcome to Jesse Owens, the world famous track hero, Sunday Night, were the arms of Jim Crow". The Olympic champion was forced to use the service lift to attend a banquet in his honor. As Olympic success knew Jesse Owens, it could not free him.

Despite his fame upon his return from Berlin, Owens struggled for money and began participating in stunt races against dogs, motorcycles and even horses at halftime of football matches and doubleheaders of Negro League baseball games. done.

Owens would start 40 yards ahead of his peers before a 100-yard run, and he often won by nose. "People said it was humiliating for an Olympic champion to run against a horse," Owens said, "but what should I have done? I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals."

Jesse Owens and German athlete on the right, Luz Long, became friends during the Olympics. Loose Long gave Jesse Owens tips that might have saved the competition for him, and after the win he congratulated and hugged him with the utmost sportsmanship.

They remained in correspondence until Long was killed in Sicily when the Allies invaded the island. Owens said: "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt all the medals and cups I have and they won't affect the twenty-four-carat friendship I felt for Loose Long at the time."

Jesse Owens won the gold medal wearing shoes given to him by Adidas founder Adolf "Adi" Dassler, who was also a Nazi. German shoemaker Adolf "Adi" Dassler saw the Berlin Games not as a vehicle for Nazi propaganda but as an opportunity to launch his humble athletic shoe business. He successfully lobbied not only German athletes, but also Owens, to wear his personally handmade leather track shoes with extra-long spikes.

Born James Cleveland Owens, the track star was called "J.C.". by his family. On his first day at Bolton Elementary School after moving to Cleveland at age 9, the teacher misheard his Alabama draw and thought his name was "Jesse" instead of "J.C.". Owens was too shy to fixate on his new teacher in front of his new classmates, and was called "Jesse" for the rest of his life.

In 1984, a street outside Berlin's Olympic Stadium, where Owens had achieved fame, was renamed Jesse-Owens-Alle, and the section of the Olympic Village where runners stayed during the 1936 Summer Olympics was renamed the American Displays about the champion.

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