The Life of Jesse Owens and His Influence on The World

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1997 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 1997|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Life of Jesse Owens
  3. Emergence of Jesse Owens as an Athlete
  4. 1936 Berlin Olympics
  5. Post-Olympic Life and Legacy
  6. Jesse Owens' Enduring Influence


The renowned African American athlete Jesse Owens once remarked, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” Owens' journey from a sickly child to an Olympic champion is a testament to the power of perseverance and resilience. While many may be familiar with Owens' athletic achievements, his early life and the challenges he overcame are lesser-known. Born James Cleveland Owens on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, Alabama, he faced numerous obstacles from a young age. This essay delves into the life of Jesse Owens, exploring his upbringing, emergence as an athlete, and the pivotal role of determination in shaping his remarkable journey.

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Early Life of Jesse Owens

James Cleveland Owens was the youngest of ten children born to Henry Cleveland Owens and Mary Emma Fitzgerald. Growing up in Oakville, Alabama, Owens faced health challenges, suffering from weak lungs and frequent bouts of pneumonia. Despite his frailty, Owens found solace in running barefoot through the fields, relishing the freedom it afforded him. Recalling his childhood, Owens reminisced, “We used to have a lot of fun. We never had any problems. We always ate. The fact that we didn't have steak? Who had steak?” While his siblings toiled in the cotton fields, Owens often battled illness, demonstrating early resilience in the face of adversity.

One pivotal event that shaped Owens' resilience occurred in 1918 when he discovered a fibrous bump on his chest, which turned out to be a tumor. Witnessing his parents' fervent prayers for his recovery, Owens experienced what he believed to be a miraculous healing, with the bleeding ceasing after a joint prayer session with his father. This episode instilled in Owens a deep faith and a sense of purpose that would guide him through life's challenges.

At the age of eight, Owens' family relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, where he enrolled in public school. Initially known as James, a miscommunication with his teacher resulted in him adopting the name Jesse, which would become synonymous with greatness in the world of athletics. It was at his new school that Owens' athletic prowess began to emerge, particularly in track and field.

Emergence of Jesse Owens as an Athlete

During his high school years, Owens' talents blossomed as he excelled in the 100-yard dash, 200-yard dash, and broad jump, clinching victory in national competitions. Describing his passion for running, Owens once remarked, “I always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself and under your own power.” His dedication to the sport propelled him to new heights, earning him accolades and admiration from peers and spectators alike.

In 1935, Owens married his childhood sweetheart, Minnie Ruth Solomon, with whom he welcomed their first child, Gloria, in 1932. Despite receiving offers from numerous universities, Owens ultimately chose Ohio State University, influenced in part by the university's assistance in finding employment for his father. However, his time at Ohio State was marred by encounters with racism, a stark reminder of the societal barriers he faced as a black athlete. Despite these challenges, Owens continued to excel on the track, earning the moniker “Buckeye Bullet” for his lightning-fast performances.

One of Owens' most remarkable feats occurred during the Big Ten Conference track and field conference at the University of Michigan in 1935. In a span of just 45 minutes, Owens shattered three world records and tied another, showcasing his extraordinary talent and resilience. Remarkably, Owens achieved these feats despite nursing an injury to his tailbone just days prior, a testament to his unwavering determination and mental fortitude.

The perseverance demonstrated by Jesse Owens throughout his athletic career serves as an inspiring example of overcoming adversity and achieving greatness against all odds. His story highlights the transformative power of dedication, discipline, and self-belief in realizing one's dreams. In the subsequent sections of this essay, we will delve deeper into Owens' journey, exploring the pivotal moments and influences that shaped his path to Olympic glory.

1936 Berlin Olympics

Jesse Owens' participation in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, marked a defining moment in sports history. Amidst the backdrop of Hitler's oppressive regime and the propagation of Aryan supremacy, Owens, along with other African American athletes, faced not only the rigors of athletic competition but also the insidious threat of racial discrimination. Despite these challenges, Owens' indomitable spirit and exceptional talent shone through.

Adolf "Adi" Dassler, a German shoemaker, played a pivotal role in Owens' Olympic triumph. Providing Owens with custom-made shoes adorned with extra-long spikes, Dassler's gesture not only aided Owens' performance but also symbolized a rare instance of camaraderie amidst the tumult of the Nazi regime. With Dassler's shoes propelling him forward, Owens emerged as the undisputed champion of the 1936 Olympics, clinching an unprecedented four gold medals.

Each of Owens' victories at the Olympics bore a unique narrative, reflecting not only his unparalleled athleticism but also the moments of solidarity and sportsmanship that transcended racial barriers. From narrowly defeating his college friend in the 100m dash to receiving support from a German competitor in the long jump, Owens' triumphs embodied the spirit of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. His participation in the 4 by 100-meter sprint, where he replaced a Jewish athlete, underscored the significance of his presence as a symbol of unity and defiance against racial prejudice.

In the aftermath of his historic victories, Owens' fame reverberated globally, propelling him to the forefront of international acclaim. His success served as a beacon of hope and inspiration, challenging the divisive ideologies propagated by Hitler's regime. As Owens basked in the adulation of the crowd and the embrace of his fellow athletes, the world witnessed the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry and oppression.

Post-Olympic Life and Legacy

Returning to America as a hero, Jesse Owens was met with a mixed reception that reflected the racial tensions prevalent in society at the time. While he was celebrated with a parade in his honor, Owens' experiences following his Olympic triumph underscored the pervasive discrimination faced by African Americans. Despite his unparalleled athletic achievements, Owens encountered systemic racism and marginalization, epitomized by his exclusion from a White House reception hosted by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Owens' post-Olympic journey was fraught with financial struggles and professional setbacks. Despite his status as a national hero, Owens found himself unable to secure stable employment, resorting to various odd jobs to make ends meet. His experiences of discrimination and hardship served as a stark reminder of the entrenched inequality that persisted in American society.

However, Owens' resilience and determination remained undaunted in the face of adversity. Embracing his role as a trailblazer and advocate for social change, Owens dedicated himself to uplifting marginalized communities, particularly African American youth. Through his various roles in sports administration and community outreach, Owens sought to empower the next generation, instilling in them the values of perseverance, integrity, and compassion.

Throughout his later years, Owens continued to inspire and uplift others, embodying the ethos of resilience and optimism. Despite battling health issues, including lung cancer attributed to his smoking habits, Owens remained steadfast in his commitment to spreading positivity and hope. His enduring legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of perseverance and the enduring impact of one individual's unwavering determination to effect change.

Jesse Owens' Enduring Influence

The passing of Jesse Owens on March 31, 1980, marked the end of a remarkable chapter in sports history. His battle with lung cancer concluded with his interment at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, IL. Although Owens had departed from this world, his legacy continued to resonate profoundly, leaving an indelible imprint on the fabric of society.

In recognition of Owens' unparalleled contributions to sports and humanity, numerous tributes and honors were bestowed upon him posthumously. In 1984, a street adjacent to Berlin's Olympic Stadium was renamed Jesse-Owens-Allee, immortalizing his legacy in the city where he achieved Olympic glory. Similarly, the section of the Olympic village where Owens resided during the 1936 Games now serves as a testament to his enduring impact, housing displays dedicated to his remarkable achievements.

In 1990, Minnie Owens, Jesse's widow, was awarded a congressional gold medal in honor of her husband's legacy, symbolizing his enduring status as both an Olympic and American hero. President Bush lauded Owens as "an Olympic hero and American hero every day of his life," paying homage to his unwavering commitment to excellence and integrity.

The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta marked the sixtieth anniversary of Owens' historic triumph, prompting a resurgence of interest in his legacy. Merchandise ranging from Jesse Owens gambling chips to oak tree saplings reminiscent of those awarded to winners in 1936 flooded the market, underscoring the enduring appeal of Owens' legacy.

Beyond the realm of sports, Jesse Owens' influence extended to philanthropy and education. The establishment of foundations inspired by his legacy, such as the Jesse Owens Foundation, serves as a testament to his commitment to empowering future generations. The foundation's initiatives, including the Ruth and Jesse Owens Scholars Program at Ohio State University, provide invaluable resources and support to underserved youth, nurturing their talents and fostering their development as conscientious citizens.

In reflecting on Jesse Owens' enduring influence, the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians resonate deeply: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." Owens' life exemplified this ethos, as he ran not merely for personal glory but in alignment with a higher purpose. His unwavering dedication to his craft and his commitment to inspiring others to pursue their dreams in harmony with their faith continue to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

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In conclusion, Jesse Owens' legacy transcends the realm of sports, encapsulating the essence of resilience, perseverance, and the pursuit of excellence. His indomitable spirit and enduring impact serve as a testament to the transformative power of one individual's determination to effect positive change in the world. As we commemorate his legacy, let us strive to emulate his example, running our race with purpose, integrity, and unwavering faith.


  1. Schaap, J. (2007). Triumph: The untold story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Krane, V. (2014). The life of Jesse Owens. The Rosen Publishing Group.
  3. Davis, M. (2017). Jesse Owens: An American Life. W. W. Norton & Company.
  4. Owens, M. R., & Schaap, J. (2007). Jesse: The man who outran Hitler. William Morrow.
  5. Hargrove, H. (2002). Jesse Owens: Olympic hero. Enslow Publishers.
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The Life Of Jesse Owens And His Influence On The World. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
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