Thursday, November 12, 2015

Documentary Biography: Jesse Owens (2013)

This documentary is part of the PBS series American Experience.  It won an Emmy for outstanding research.  Jesse Owens was quite a man.  He was a Black athlete before that was really OK in the the United States.  After a successful high school career, he attended Ohio State as an athlete.  He won the NCAA championships, but then fell on more difficult times as fame got to his head.  A rival runner beat him several times.  It was when he refocused, went home and married his girlfriend, that he found his new self.  He became a member of the Olympic team.  His rival was out with injury.  He became a pioneer for later athletes such as Frankie Robinson.  His claim to fame is the 1936 Olympics.  This Olympics was held in Germany.  It was to be Hitler's chance to demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan Nation.  Owens had suggested the U.S. should not participate if Germany was persecuting minorities.  However Owens' fears were laid aside.  During the Olympics, all things were white washed in Germany.  At this Olympics he won four gold medals.  He won the 100 meter dash, with a fellow American Black athlete taking second.  He then won the broad jump in a thrilling display dueling a German athlete through out.  He then followed up with the 200 meter dash.  The last medal he won was for an event in which he was not scheduled to participate.  The United States bowed to pressure from the Germans, the Olympic host country, to not have their Jewish athletes participate, and so Owens and another countryman were drafted to fill in.  Owens was not pleased with the decision.
Owens;' success did not lead to success after the Olympics, which he thought it would.  He was banned by the AAU, the governing body for amateur athletics in the U.S. at the time because he left a European tour and came home to his wife and child.  He had difficulty supporting his children, and would participate in races against horses to make ends meet.  It wasn't until about 20 years after the Olympics that the country started to see Jesse Owens again, and he participated in television commercials and game shows as a guest.
Jesse Owens was subject to racism throughout his life.  However he responded as the son of a share cropper would, with dignity and grace.  He was truly an American pioneer.

No comments:

Post a Comment