Jesse Owens Rose Triumphant Over Hitler . . . and Roosevelt

The Gazette's David Ramsey reports

We enjoy telling the story of Jesse Owens defeating Adolf Hitler. The tale brightens our American spirit, encourages our sense of greatness.

We ignore the story of Owens and his return to the United States. After winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens was snubbed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who declined to send a congratulatory telegram or invite the world’s greatest athlete to the White House.

In Germany, Owens sprinted his way to destruction of white superiority, but this sprint did nothing to alter the reality of America in 1936. The night he was honored at a dinner in New York’s glittering Waldorf-Astoria, he arrived via service elevator. African-Americans were prohibited from riding alongside whites on standard elevators.


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