On Friday, February 19, the film Race will be released for public view. The main character in the film? Jesse Owens, considered by many sports historians as the greatest track and field athlete to ever set foot into competition.
Born in 1936 in Oakville, Alabama, Owens soon moved to Cleveland, Ohio where as a student at East Technical High School, he ran the 100 yard dash in 9.4 seconds and long jumped 24 feet and 9 1/2 inches. This actually equaled the world record held at the time. Soon he moved on to Ohio State and between 1935 and 1936, he took home eight individual national championships. Although he enjoyed riveting success, Owens wasn’t allowed to eat with his team at restaurants, forcing him to either go to an all-Black restaurant or have carryout. He also had to live off-campus with other Black athletes.
It was the 1936 Olympics, though, where Owens established himself as a legend in track and field. He won the 100, 200 and 4×100 meter relay, while also winning the long jump. And depending on which historian you ask, Owens’ dominance irritated Hitler so much he refused to shake hands with him (some say he had to leave at a certain time). Owens’ fame allowed him to stay in the same hotels as whites, during a time in America where Blacks still had to stay in segregated hotels. Although it was his first and last time participating in the Olympics, he will also be a great what-if had he participated in the 1940 Olympics at the age of 26.