Jesse Owens


"It ain't that big. The whole United States ain't that big. It ain't that big. it ain't big enough. There ain't room enough for you an' me, for your kind an' my kind, for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat. Whyn't you go back where you come from?"

John Steinbeck "The Grapes of Wrath"

external image JesseOwens1936.jpg

James Cleveland Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, the son of a sharecropper, a farmer who rents land. When a school teacher asked his name and Owens said J.C. the teacher misunderstood his strong accent and thought he said Jesse, and the name stuck. When Owens was in the fifth grade, the athletic supervisor asked him to join the track team. From a skinny boy he developed into a strong runner, and in junior high school he set a record for the 100-yard dash. In high school in 1933 he won the 100-yard dash, the 200-yard dash, and the broad jump in the National Interscholastic Championships. Owens was such a complete athlete, a coach said he seemed to float over the ground when he ran. Many colleges tried recruiting Jesse, but he felt that college was only a dream because he came from a poor family struggling with money. Owens finally agreed to enter Ohio State University in Columbus, but had to work three jobs to pay for his tuition. At the Big Ten Conference track and field championships at the University of Michigan in 1935, he broke three world records and tied another. His 26 foot 8 1/4-inch broad jump set a record that was not broken for twenty-five years.



Jesse Owens wins the 100-meter heat in 10.3 seconds at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Jesse Owens wins the 100-meter heat in 10.3 seconds at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.



People said it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do?" Owens said. "I had four gold medals, but you can't eat four gold medals."



In 1936, Owens joined the U.S. Olympic team. Hitlerr was in power at the time, and by then his racist philosophy of Aryan superiority was dominant. Nevertheless, despite the tension, Owens won gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter sprints, the 400-meter relay, and the broad jump, setting a new world record of 25 feet, 10¼ inches. Hitler left the stadium shocked, and mad, but the German Athletes started clapping and chanting jesse owen's name. When returning to the United States, Owens was very disappointed by their still being discrimination among blacks. He had trouble finding a job, but eventually decided to turn professional and began racing non-human things such as horses and cars. He did not make enough money financially off of this, so he began a new career in public speaking.In 1972, while still working on the public speaking circuit, Owens moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Owens later died on March 31, 1980 in a Phoenix hospital.


At Jesse Ownes Memorial Park, in Danville, Alabama, this statue is in honor of his olympic performance. The park also has a museum and other attractions dedicated to him.
At Jesse Ownes Memorial Park, in Danville, Alabama, this statue is in honor of his olympic performance. The park also has a museum and other attractions dedicated to him.
Jesse Owens during the long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens won gold for his 8.06 meter long jump.
Jesse Owens during the long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Owens won gold for his 8.06 meter long jump.


Works Cited

Jesse Owens Biography. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from bio.truestory. http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9431142

Owens Pierced a Myth. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from ESPN. http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016393.html
Jesse Owens Quotes. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from Thinkexsist.com. http://thinkexist.com/quotes/jesse_owens/2.html