I am a proud Clevelander. I love sports, professional and otherwise. Cleveland is a sports town, and Jesse Owens is one of our local heroes. His history is the history of sports, blacks and Americans. (More)

Black history is American history.

James Cleveland Owens, born, in 1913 in a small town in Alabama. He was the seventh child of a poor cotton farmer. His family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in search of better opportunities. He got the name Jesse because he was referred to as J.C. A teacher heard it as Jesse and it stuck. He went to high school, and was encouraged to start training for track by the coach. He became a record-breaking high school track star. He went on to make history at Ohio State University when he set multiple records at the Big Ten tournament in 1935.

The Summer Olympics 1936, Berlin Germany

Jesse Owens will always be remembered for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin Germany. Adolf Hitler had hoped to show the prowess and better of his master race. Instead, Owens became the first black Olympic champion and set multiple world records.

According to Albert Speer, a high official for Adolf Hitler:

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.

Totally fabulous photos:

Jesse Owens MedalJesse Owens RunningJesse Owens Leaping

In fact the Germans requested that  the Americans  not have Jewish men compete as to not embarrass  the Germans even further. The US Olympic officials complied with the request.  Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. On the street, Germans sought his autograph. Unfortunately, because of financial concerns, Jesse Owens chose not to compete in Sweden as requested so the US athletic officials withdrew his amateur status, which ended his career immediately. It is unfortunate that the US Olympic officials did not appreciate that Jesse Owens had to support his young family. As Owens said:

A fellow desires something for himself.

When Jesse Owens returned to the United States, he was honored with a ticker tape parade in New York City along Fifth Avenue. He was honored with a reception at the world renowned Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He however had to ride up the freight elevator to his own party. Jim Crow was practiced in NYC as well as the South.

In 1955, President Eisenhower honored Owens by naming him an “Ambassador of Sports.” Honors which were sorely lacking from either of the previous Presidents. A few months before his death, Owens tried unsuccessfully to convince President Jimmy Carter not to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He argued that the Olympic ideal was to be a time-out from war and above politics. Four years later, a street in Berlin was renamed in his honor.

A decade after his death, President Bush posthumously awarded Owens the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bush called his victories in Berlin “an unrivaled athletic triumph, but more than that, a triumph for all humanity.”

I couldn’t agree more Mr. Bush. Congratulations to Jesse Owens, a great man. His story is a story of black history and American history.


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  • People matter more than profits.
  • The earth is our home, not our trash can.
  • We need good government for both #1 and #2.

A mighty fist bump to you all!