Mar. 28 – Running into History

Gay Lynn HillAmerican History(BR), Bell Ringers

On Mar. 28, 1990, sprinter Jesse Owens received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George H.W. Bush.

In 1936, Jesse Owens electrified the world by winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, the first athlete to do so in one games. The fact that a black man did this embarrassed racial theorists in Nazi Germany.

That said, by his own account, Owens did not feel snubbed, even by Adolf Hitler. In Germany at the time, he was able to travel freely and stay in hotels of his choosing – something not true in much of the United States at the time. When he returned to the United States, President Roosevelt failed to acknowledge his achievements (there is a dispute about Hitler’s reaction to his victories).



Questions:
  1. What role do you think athletes like Jesse Owens, and later Jackie Robinson and others, played in ending discrimination in the United States?
  2. Owens is also, however, a great example of the triumph of athleticism over politics. Do you think sports and politics should be mixed?
  3. Owens was a lifelong defender of Olympic ideals, and even petitioned President Carter to reconsider the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. What place do you think nationalism should play in the Olympics?
  4. The 2018 Olympics were full of Korean symbolism, as well. What political messages do you think that was intended to send?

Image Citation:

16, Mar. 2018, Jesse Owens {Digital image].  Retrieved from <pbs.org>.