Black History: Jesse Owens

The athlete who defied Hitler’s theory of black inferiority was none other than Jesse Owens. He won 4 gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. In each of his track events, he either tied a record or set a new one. The year prior, “His achievement of setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been called ‘the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport’ and has never been equaled.”

Despite his great achievement, Jesse was unfortunately not invited to the White House to shake FDR’s hands. And fun little fact: Jesse Owens was a Republican. “While the Democrats had bid for the support of Owens, Owens rejected those overtures: as a staunch Republican, he endorsed Alf Landon, Roosevelt’s Republican opponent in the 1936 presidential race. Owens joined the Republican Party after returning from Europe and was paid to campaign for African American votes for Alf Landon.

When he spoke at a Republican rally on October 9, 1936, Owens said “Some people say Hitler snubbed me. But I tell you, Hitler did not snub me. I am not knocking the President. Remember, I am not a politician, but remember that the President did not send me a message of congratulations because, people said, he was too busy.

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