African American Hero of the Day

African American Almanac
ISBN: 9781578593231

Who was the athlete whose success was an insult to Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler?

  • His given name was James Cleveland, but he went by the initials J. C., which were later mispronounced, resulting in the name by which he became known.
  • He first astounded the world when he was still in high school by running the 100-meter dash in 10.3 seconds.
  • He broke three world records at the Big Ten Championships in 1935.
  • Hitler refused to present him with the gold medals he won at the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.

Jesse Owens (1913-1980)

Track and Field Athlete

James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Danville, Alabama, Jesse and his family moved to Ohio when he was still young; the name "Jesse" derived from the way a teacher pronounced his initials, "J. C."

In 1932, while attending East Technical High School in Cleveland, Owens gained national fame with a 10.3 clocking in the 100#meter dash. Two years later Owens entered Ohio State University, and for the next four years he made track history, becoming universally known as "The Ebony Antelope." While competing in the Big Ten Championships at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 25, 1935, Owens had what has been called "the greatest single day in the history of man's athletic achievements." In the space of about forty-five minutes, he tied the world record for the 100#yard dash and surpassed the world record for the broad jump, the 220#yard low hurdles, and the 220#yard dash.

At the Berlin Olympics in 1936 Owens won four gold medals--at that time the most universally acclaimed feat in the history of the Games. When Adolf Hitler refused to present him with the medals he had won in the various competitions, Owens's fame became even more widespread as a result of the publicity. Although the track and field records set by Owens have all been eclipsed, his reputation as one of the first great athletes with the combined talents of a sprinter, low hurdler, and broad jumper has hardly diminished with the passage of time.

From African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence by Lean'tin Bracks, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R). A wealth of milestones, inspiration, and challenges met . . .

< Previous Fact Next Fact >

Dig deeper with these related titles:

African American Almanac African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence
by Lean'tin Bracks, PhD

A wealth of milestones, inspiration, and challenges met. . . The most complete and affordable single-volume reference of African... Read More »

ISBN: 9781578593231
Freedom Facts and Firsts Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience
by Jessie Carney Smith, Ph.D. and Linda T Wynn

Spanning nearly 400 years from the early abolitionists to the present, this guide book profiles more than 400 people, places, and events that have... Read More »

ISBN: 9781578591923
Black Firsts 2nd ed. Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Events, 2nd Edition
by Jessie Carney Smith, Ph.D.

Black Firsts is a testament to a rich but often overlooked part of our history. Jessie Carney Smith, William and Camille Cosby Professor of the... Read More »

ISBN: 9781578591428
Black Heroes Black Heroes
by Jessie Carney Smith, Ph.D.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress," wrote Frederick Douglass. "This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may... Read More »

ISBN: 9781578591367