Who Was Jesse Owens?


Quick Answer

Remembered as a track legend, Jesse Owens became the first American track-and-field athlete to win four gold medals in one Olympiad at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He is especially remembered for completing this feat as an African-American competing in Nazi-controlled Germany amid racial discrimination.

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Full Answer

The victories of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics not only discredited Hitler's "master Aryan race" theory but it also proved to the world that race and national origin has little effect on the abilities of an individual. In a time when racism, racial discrimination and segregation ran rampant, Jesse Owens overcame unfair odds to win four gold medals in one year's Olympic Games. Jesse's accomplishment would remain unmatched until the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, nearly 50 years later.

After his successful Olympic career, Jesse Owens and his family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. He took a job as a playground director, which became the beginning of his career working with underprivileged youth. Recognizing his greatest joy was in inspiring others, Jesse travelled as a highly sought-after motivational speaker.

Jesse Owens died on March 30, 1980, in Tucson, Arizona, due to complications with lung cancer. His three daughters created a foundation in his name, the Jesse Owens Foundation. The foundation works to continue Jesse Owens' mission: To provide underprivileged youth with the financial and emotional support to unlock their potential.

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