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Jesse Owens Facing Hitler and The Nazi Army

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In the world there are many problems in the 20th century where African Americans were being mistreated by the Jim Crow laws, the Klu Klux Klan and to be more direct they lynched African Americans in the United States. Hitler and the Nazis were persecuting Jews because of their religious beliefs. Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews because they fit the description. With all of these problems that didn’t stop Jesse Ownes from accomplishing the greatest that he did in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Jesse paved the way for other athletes with the same desire and ambition like him. 

James Clevland Owens also known as “Jesse” was born in “Oakville, Alabama” in 1 2 1913. The family later moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1921. The Owens family was part of the Great Migration which led them to move to the city because of the shortages in the workplace industry. Jesse’s father and mother were “sharecroppers” trying to make ends meet in a house 3 with 10 children with Jesse being the youngest. The Ownes had to work for everything that they had like many African American families during that time. Many people don’t know that Henry Ownes was the first in the Owens family to become a runner. Jesse Owens followed his father Henry Owens footsteps by taking on running just after his father. Running with his father on Sunday’s helped him develop his love, passion and strength for running and speed. When Jesse found the passion of running it did not take him long for him to make up an impressive resume to catch college before he graduated high school. Many top universities were after Jesse when high school was slowly coming to an end. 

The Great Depression had all aged groups working. If you were at the age of 9 or 10 or even older enough to work in factories then you were working to help your parents out. Many children weren’t thinking about furthering their education beyond high school. In America “fewer than 15 percent of American youths pursued a college degree.” So many children 4 weren’t given the option to experience college life. If Jesse Ownes did not have the resume coming out of high school he would have joined that 15 percent of people working for your family. Jesse’s family did not have the funds nor did Jesse have the grades to pursue any further education. Coach Charles Riley and the rest of the coaching staff at Ohio State had Jesse to take a “special tests” for him to be able to enroll at the university. The University of Ohio State was 5 known for having a bad reputation on racial prejudice; he still enrolled there in the fall of 1933. While being a buckeye he was placed on “academic probation” in 1934, because he failed to 6 maintain a grade point average of “3.2” Even though he struggled academically during his 7 freshman year he was still a hard worker and an over achiever on the track. He accomplished big things as a freshman. At the end of his freshman year at Ohio State Jesse competed and won all 3 events. He set a new record for the Big Ten Conference in the “100 yard dash, 220 yard dash,and long jump.” No other freshman was able to accomplish the things he accomplished in his era, 8 and this was only the beginning. 

America was going through the Great Depression where economic funds were scarce for many families and businesses. It all started when the stock market crashed in 1929. Businesses had to lay off workers because they were not able to pay them for the work that they were doing. The Great Depression lasted from 1929-1939. Finding work was hard enough but during the depression by 1939 over “9.5 million Americans” could not find work. With the number 9 growing dramatically the more the United States suffered even more. People without work means no source of income and that means the government is not bringing in revenue to make sure the government is able to still function. When President Roosevelt got appointed office the unemployment rate was “25 percent” so, he created these new deals which were made for the 10 poor to help them find work. America begins to suffer more and more the longer the stock market stays shut down. With many families starving and trying to stay alive, the name America was going down the drain quickly with the press blasting this to the world. 

Originally the Berlin Olympics was a public relations event for Adolf Hitler. Many people called the 1936 Olympics the “Nazi Olympics” because of what Hitler was doing to 11 Jews. The games began “August 2, 1936.” Hitler had complete control over the games. He did not allow blonde hair and blue or any jews in the olympic games. When Jesse became a fan favorite during the games Hitler was not pleased with the performance. Hitler felt threatened when an African American have caught the people’s eye in his country. Many whites thought it was a sad day for them to get shown up by a black person. He planned on making a statement, but that turned quickly when Jesse Owens stunned the entire world with his success in the games. In the games Jesse took home “4 gold medals” three in running and one in fields. The 13 man who came second to Jesse was a Jewish man named “Luz Long”. Hitler had it out for the 14 USA team, for two reasons. One was because a black man was excelling in the games and the other reason was the USA team had a Jewish man on the team. Hitler restricted Long in competing in the games due to his background. Hitler did not let him compete, because Hiter wanted to continue to make a statement that we are in his territory and that we have to abide by his rules. 

Many African American moved to the northern part of the states because of the Great Migration. Blacks moved because they saw job opportunities doing factory work. Between the Great Depression and World War II blacks were struggling the most. Also with the stock market shutting down did not help and people who were looking for a job. Black were hired, but the first ones to be laid off. So keeping a good steady job during this time was rare. Blacks had the highest unemployment rate during the Great Depression.With many factory workers leaving to go serve in the army; many more jobs opened up for new people to come in and start. Whites did not believe that blacks were able to excel in the factory business. The United States entered in the present day era where racial discrimination still to this day still exists. African American have many restrictions on them whether it was restaurants, restrooms, schools, and occupations. 

They didn’t have freedom like the white’s had. In “1909 the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement) was founded”. This organization was created to help and support black 15 people with the racial inequality that was going on in the country. It was also to bring awareness to other people around the world the mistreatment of blacks in the United States. They wanted equality and fairness for all races but especially the African American race. There were many organizations that were being formed for African Americans for social and political change. When Aldof Hitler became the “Chancellor” In 1933 he changed the way Germany was 16 viewed. Before Hitler was appointed he promised the people of Germany things that would help Germany. When he got into office all of that changed and did not fulfill his promises to the people. He created an army called the Nazi. Germany was now turned into a dictatorship. Hitler alone killed many people in his country. The Nazi army followed his directions which was to kill people who were Jewish faith based. Over 6 million Jews were “slaughtered” under the 17 direction of Hitler. Many people either were murdered on the spot or were taken to concentration camps where they later died due to starvation, or diseases. He wanted civilians who were “tall, blond, blue-eyed, Aryan supermen” did not matter if you lived in Germany or not The 18 mistreatment of the Jews was just the beginning. Later in 1941 the Holocuast came about a genocide were Nazi’s went from house to house finding and killing many Jews. The famous story about Anne Franke who was Jewish hid in a bookcase to try and save her and her family from the Nazi’s. That diary entry that she wrote was so historic, because it was written through a person’s eyes who experienced the horiffic times during this genocide. The Holocaust was one of the terrifying, bloodiest, horrific genocide in the world. 

The Jews in Germany and African Americans in the United States were very similar because of things that happened to innocent people. Over 6 million Jews were assassinated, ordered by Hitler because of their religious backgrounds. African Americans in the United States were racial profiled because of their skin color. It was worse for African American when it went down into the southern states. Later in history the civil rights movement came along where civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, Martin L. King, Malcom X and etc. were trying to fight for equality for all, but majority black people. Jews and Africans Americans went through similar treatment either because of their ethic or religious background. Both were labeled stereotypical names like “Negros” and or “blonde hair blue eyed” which did not apply to everyone. These 19 labels were plastered everywhere like restrooms, schools, and water fountains. Many people down in the south weighed heavily on the signs. In eating establishments blacks were either not allowed to be serviced or they had to get their food from around back. Even though the United States and Germany are on two different sides of the world the society of both of the countries were structured similarly. Living in a society of restrictions and not being wanted can be frustrating and not enjoyable to raise your family in. Having racial and gender restrictions at places like your job makes your source of income much harder to work at. Knowing that working in America isn’t the easiest place to work. When it comes down to your family you would do anything to provide for your family. 

Through the trials and tribulations that not only Jesse Owens went through but other athletes, African Americans and Jews had experienced they kept the faith and pursued the bigger goal. Jesse Owens paved the way for many future athletes to come after him. Even though segregation in the United States worked as time passed. As African Americans they were faced with many things, but as a African American in 2020 we have overcome so much compared to in the past we had small victories, but have yet to win a battle. We have our first black female entrepreneur, we have had our first African American in the major and we have elected and re-elected our first black president. Yes, Jesse Owens set many records and won many medals, but without him other track athletes like Florence Joyner, Justin Gatlin, Carl Lewis, and Allyson Felix. Ownes not only changed the perspective of track, but he changed the mindset of other African Americans who excelled in other sports. We are now on our 28 Olympics Game that is coming up in the summer of 2020. With the progress we made over the years with racial injustice and gender inequality we as people made a difference. We as a people in this nation have come together as one united front to end the inequality. 

In conclusion, Jesse went from a small sharecropping family of 12 to being the fastest man on earth during his time. Jesse knew how important his role was to the success of track and for African American people. 


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‘The 1930s: Government and Politics: Overview.’ In 1930-1939, edited by Judith S. Baughman, Victor Bondi, Richard Layman, Tandy McConnell, and Vincent Tompkins. Vol. 4 of American Decades​. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001. ​Gale eBooks​ (accessed March 31, 2020).

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