Jesse Owens

by Jillian from Leawood

Jesse Owens demonstrated such courage and strength during his life that he is still talked about today. He was born on September 12th, 1913 in Oakville, Alabama to Emma and Henry Owens. As a child Jesse would run races with his friends at recess. His childhood was not always great because Jesse was constantly sick with congestion and other sicknesses. As middle school came along Jesse joined his school's track team. At the start Jesse's track coach knew that Owens had so much potential in the sport. Even in middle school Jesse would set and beat national records. When he got to high school people knew he had a bright future ahead of him in this sport.

Jesse was accepted to Ohio State University. Jesse was one of their best athletes, but his fame came at a cost. Because Jesse was not white he had to live off campus and he had to work three jobs to support himself, his wife, and his children. Jesse was not on a scholarship so those jobs also helped pay for his college education. Jesse was determined to make a better life for him and his family. The next step in his career was to compete at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Participating in the 1936 Olympics was a very brave thing for Jesse to do because Germany's leader, Adolf Hitler himself would be at the events. Everyone knew that Hitler was very racist and thought all of his athletes would take away all of the track and field gold medals. Jesse knew he had to make a statement at these games. He was there to represent his country, even if people didn't like him because of his skin color. There was no surprise when Jesse took away four out of the eleven United States gold medals. When Jesse won the one-hundred meter dash Hitler furiously left the stadium. The crowd thought the opposite, and went crazy when Jesse won. Reports later said that Hitler congratulated Jesse. It must have been very tense and a little frightening for Jesse, but it took a tremendous amount of courage and determinations to not only go there, but to win.

After the Olympics Jesse came home to a proud country. He met the president and many other famous people. This would not last forever because Jesse was now a professional so now he would have to rely on sponsors and other companies for financial support. Sadly, no company would sponsor a colored man. Jesse was broke, so he went around the country to give inspirational talks. His story touched many people.

As Jesse grew older he later developed lung cancer. He later died from it on March, 31 1980 in Tuscon, Arizona. Jesse's legacy would not be forgotten; Jesse's three children started the "Jesse Owens Foundation". His organization would help kids strengthen their talents. Now Jesse is still changing lives, even though he is gone. He is a true American hero.

Page created on 9/3/2012 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/3/2012 12:00:00 AM

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