Jesse Owens: The Controversy Of The 1936 Olympics

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Before the Olympics, Jesse Owens, a student at Ohio State University, was diligently working to support himself financially and achieve his full potential in track and field. Having nine siblings with little money, Jesse Owens had been forced to get jobs after school at a young age to help provide for the family (Schaap 1; “Jesse” 1). Even as a freshman in college in 1935, Owens was not provided with a scholarship, so he worked many odd jobs to pay the tuition (“Jesse” 1). Along with financial difficulties, Owens was faced with racial segregation as he was not allowed to live on campus, or even compete alongside whites (Large 89). Owens showed perseverance by working hard to overcome challenges associated with the world’s racism and his own …show more content…
The United States considered boycotting the 1936 Olympics after it was clear that Adolf Hitler was segregating Jewish athletes on the German team (Rothman et al 1). However, the United States was being hypocritical, because African Americans were still being segregated throughout the country, and it was even debated if they would be allowed to compete on the U.S. team (Large 87). Jesse Owens was pressured by multiple sources to boycott the Olympics (Large 88, 222). However, in the end he decided to compete after receiving advice that he could provide a “certain psychological value” for disproving Hitler’s beliefs and that he should not “oppose Germany for doing something” that happens “right here at home” (Large 90). With all the pressure to boycott the Olympics, Owens ignored what the critics said of him and decided to compete because he believed he could make a difference in the fight to stop racism. This act of persistence influenced Americans in the ’30s to question the idea of racism, and maybe even stand up against …show more content…
The Olympics were being overseen by Adolf Hitler, who wanted to prove that the Aryan race was superior to all others (Clever et al 508-509). With the American team being predominantly “brunette in complexion,” Owens saw the Olympics as a way to prove Hitler’s beliefs wrong (Large 89-90). Owens embarrassed Hitler by winner four gold medals in track and field (Clever et al 509; Rothman et al 2). Hitler refused to congratulate Owens saying, “The Americans should have been ashamed of themselves for allowing their medals to be won by Negroes” (Rothman et al 2; Large 233). However, it did not matter, because Jesse Owens had successfully showed the world that Hitler’s Aryan race was not the superior to all (Rothman et al 2). Owens’s story was appealing to the public because of its happy ending. Had he failed to earn a medal, no one would have paid attention to his story. However, with Owens’s victory, the public of the ’30s were able to see the rewards of hard work and

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