Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

August 8, 1936

On August 8, 1936, the Chicago Defender headline declared “Owens ‘Takes’ Olympics.”  “Jesse Owens is the god of sports fans here,” the article began. “He has effectively demonstrated his superiority in winning the finals in the 100-meter event in which he equaled the world’s record and by blasting the Olympic mark of Eddie Tolan, another Race star, set back in 1932 over the 200-meter route.” The next day Owens won his fourth gold medal of the 1936 games as part of the U.S. 4 x 100 relay team. Owens’ victories were especially important because Hitler intended for the Berlin games to support his theories of Aryan superiority. 

An interesting side note, Owens and his relay teammate Ralph Metcalfe raced again days later at a meet in Cologne. This time, Metcalfe (who the Defender described as a “grizzled veteran of many a cinderpath”) defeated Owens in the 100-meter dash and equaled Owens’ world record time in the event.

Owens was one of eighteen African-American athletes who competed in the games. These athletes are the subject of a documentary by Deborah Riley Draper called Olympic Pride, American Prejudice (2016).

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