It’s a hot sunny day in Havana Cuba, December 1936.
And a crowd of a few thousand are gathered in the stands.
A racetrack were two competitors are gearing up for the big race.
But first is Jesse Owens the Buckeye bullet black magic.
The ebony streak.
He’s fresh off of his impressive showing at the Olympic Games in Berlin.
Just four months prior.
Fire where he won, four gold medals, but today’s race is different because of who Jesse’s opponent is all this Fanfare.
It’s to watch Jesse Owens race against A horse game.
How did this happen?
How did this Olympian end of racing?
A horse, just a few months after bringing home gold?
From gimlet media.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone palana in 85 years ago, this week at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field.
He came back home a hero, but the Russians came and went leaving Jesse to face the cold reality of a segregated country, the life.
He led teaches us a lot about America and the myth of what black Excellence.
Can ultimately get you the runners are in position.
So on your marks, get set after the break.
Jesse Owens is road to the Olympics began in May 1935.
And what’s often referred to as the greatest 45 minutes in sports history, Jesse’s and Ann Arbor Michigan at the Big Ten championships in track and field.
He was 21 years old at the time and the captain of the Ohio State University team.
The first black athlete to hold that position on a Big Ten team.
Jesse would be up against some of the best runners in the country.
This was my first Ten Conference me.
And then I was wondering whether or not I was going to be able to even make it.
That’s Jesse Owens himself in an interview, he gave to the Illinois historical society that day.
Jesse was feeling unsure of himself.
Not so much of his abilities.
He had matched the world record in the 100-yard dash while still in high school, but on this day, he was dealing with a back injury a week before the meet Owens had slipped and fallen down on a flight of stairs.
Ellen says, he was in so much pain.
He couldn’t even change out of his sweat suit by himself.
His coach Larry Snyder wanted to pull him from the hundred-yard race, but Owens was defiant.
Look if I’m gonna lose, let me lose the first race.
And then withdrawn Jesse was feeling the pressure that day.
He had a lot on the line with a wife and a baby at home.
Jesse was juggling multiple jobs to make his way through college.
Everything from sorting books in the school’s library to working the night shift, as an elevator operator.
So this me was about more than just victory.
It was about his future.
The Buckeye bullet was determined to run, fuck a bad back.
So he started to warm up.
I started to jog a little bit to loosen up my legs, and the pain was still in my back and it was shooting through my spine, not in my legs.
Now, on the announcer, signaled, the race was about to begin.
Jesse felt the pain surge as he got into starting position, but then I was off with a gun.
My knees were working perfectly.
My arms were synchronized with my legs.
The body position that we’ve worked so hard for was there.
And so I finished a hundred and we ran in the 949 for that’s nine point four seconds.
Jesse finished in record time.
Literally, he tied the world record for the hundred-yard dash and over the course of the next 45 minutes.
Keep go on to break three more records in the long jump, the to 20-yard Dash and the 220 low hurdles. 45 minutes.
I know, I said that already.
But damn, then the crowd of people came out of the stands and then everybody began to crowd around the newspaperman.
The photographer’s, everybody was asking the questions.
Jesse Owens was a star.
He went on to compete and dozens more events that season winning all of them.
Next up on his schedule.
The 1936 Olympic Games slated to be held in Berlin, but first he had to get there and there were some pretty significant roadblocks.
First of all, were talking about Germany in the 1930s.
So, you know, yeah, whatever.
He’s been in power for only.
Few years at this point but was wasting no time.
Implementing his racist anti-semitic Nazi regime.
And Hitler wasn’t exactly known for having a hey welcome everyone from every nation and culture kind of vibe.
He was originally opposed to hosting the games.
The privilege of Hosting had been awarded to the VM, our Republic, the government in place before he took power.
But Hitler’s propaganda, Minister, Joseph Goebbels convinced him.
The games could actually be a powerful tool.
Hitler’s propaganda, minister went to him and said, you know, these games would be a great kind of coming out party.
If you will, for the new Nazi government.
This is David clay, large a history professor at the University of San Francisco.
And the author of Nazi games, the Olympics of 1936.
He said that these games would provide an ideal opportunity for us to show the world how strong we are.
But also to suggest, To the world that were actually peaceful.
We can give that impression Hitler.
And the Nazis also thought the games would be a perfect chance to Showcase.
Just how Superior white athletes could be because, you know, that was kind of the Nazis whole thing.
A regime hell bent on creating a master race of blond-haired blue-eyed, Aryan folk, during this time.
The Nazis were passing a slew of anti-Semitic laws aimed at excluding Jews from public life in Germany, many organizations in the u.s.
Knew About these racist policies, and they were calling for an all-out.
Boycott was American Jews in particular.
You know, who we’re looking at the situation in Germany and saying, my God, this is terrible.
Also n-double-a-cp, was looking at the situation and saying this is a racist country.
The n-double-a-cp saw the way Germany was discriminating against Jews and other minorities and wrote Owens a letter asking him to pull out of the games.
Jesse did consider Popping out as a black man in America and the 1930s who grew up in rural Alabama, Jesse.
It was intimately familiar with racism and discrimination despite his star power back at Ohio State University.
Jesse wasn’t allowed to live in the dorms on campus.
When the team traveled, he had to eat carry out from the restaurants.
That only served white people.
He had to stay in Blacks only hotels, so he saw the power and boycotting a Nazi run the Olympic Games.
But Jesse’s coach from OSU, wasn’t having it.
He was like no you’re going.
He’s white coach, Larry Snyder.
Had a huge influence on Jesse that you’ve got to be crazy, man.
I mean, this is your great opportunity to go to these games.
Jesse’s got this split Consciousness on one shoulder.
He has his black community, pushing him to drop out as a symbolic act, but on the other is, his coach reminding him of the Very real success that could come from Olympic Glory.
So he goes for the opportunity thinking maybe his win, could mean a win for people like him.
He would later write, if I could just win those gold medals.
I said to myself the Hitler’s of the world would have no more meaning for me for anyone, Maybe.
Plus, he stood to gain a lot personally to Jesse all along really wanted to go.
He had hoped to turn success in Berlin into success back home.
Not just in terms of prestige and social acceptance, but monetary success.
He hope to be able to become a kind of early professional track athlete.
The American Olympic Committee was also pushing for athletes to go and when it came down to a vote by the amateur athletic Union, it was decided by the Narrowest of margins that American athletes, would be heading to Berlin.
So, in July of 1936 amid, a frenzy of Spectators waving, thousands of American flags Owens boards, the SS Manhattan in the New York Harbor.
Whoever thought of I’d be going abroad going to Germany or anyplace else.
And a Big Thrill.
Owens and the rest of the Olympians sailed together on the luxury liner the athletes enjoyed a Captain’s ball.
Bingo, even a casino night.
The Olympians all sailed together.
There was no segregation of any kind on the boat.
His only complaint was that he didn’t get enough time to work out that he was gaining a little weight, you know, because the food was quite good.
After a week and a half at Sea, the American athletes arrived to throngs of Germans, but it wasn’t the whole USA team that the Germans were waiting for.
They wanted to see Jesse Owens.
German people were wonderful and thousands to greet us as we came into the station.
And they cheered and cheered and they were calling out your name as you set up top of a bus and rode to the city hall and people wanted to get a look at you.
Jesse Owens was extremely popular.
He was hounded by autograph Seekers wherever he went women quickly slipping him notes, trying to get him for an assignation of some sort or another.
He was the most popular athlete in Berlin hands down.
Owens and other black athletes.
Largely reported having positive experiences while in Germany on buses, they didn’t have to write in the back and they were allowed to stay in the same hotels as whites.
But don’t be fooled, though.
This was all by Design.
The Germans had gone on a cleanup campaign, prior to the games, which in Berlin included.
Things, like, removing anti-semitic signs from the streets and allowing Jewish people into restaurants and theaters.
It was all a part of that larger strategy for the Germans to Turn the games into one big propaganda show but behind the scenes, the Nazis felt threatened by Owens and what his athletic prowess meant for their racist ideals.
The German government’s reaction or point of view was that the less said about Owens race the better because the they understood that Jesse Owens is likely to win some metals exactly how many nobody knew, but they didn’t want Victory being coupled with with Being black.
Games of the gun, the best athletes in the world of come to Berlin.
And 51 nations are represented here on August 1st.
The games begin.
Jesse Owens is first event.
The 100-meter dash takes place, two days later on August 3rd.
Jamaica, Jesse, sails.
Past his competitors to clinch the gold.
Right after the race.
He’s interviewed on the field here in Berlin, a very beautiful place in a very beautiful.
Reading the competition was Grand.
However, very glad to come out on top.
Thank you for coming.
Atop the podium smiling from ear to ear and the mostly German crowds are going wild.
On the first day of the games Hitler had made a point to shake the hands of certain athletes.
The question then becomes will Hitler congratulate Jesse by shaking his hand.
Dear listener was no, no obviously not, it’s literally Hitler.
But this rebuke becomes this huge Scandal back home in America.
The Press, especially the African American Press picked up on this and saw a double standard and there were calls them in the black, press for the Americans, to officially protest against this.
And to go to the ioc about it, and call hit and run the carpet.
All this kind of thing.
And so, this was picked up by white papers as well, and became a kind of gospel.
There was a real rage over this.
I mean, it shouldn’t I have come as that much of a shock.
This is a man who would later.
Tell the leaders of Hitler Youth.
The Americans ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting their medals be won by Negroes.
I myself would never shake hands with one of them.
So okay, the press back home was pissed but Jesse, he just kept running and kept winning over the course of the next week.
Owens went on to win, three more gold medals in the long jump. 200 meter dash and the 4 by 100 meter relay.
He absolutely dominated and a CBC interview years later, Owen spoke about that, handshake controversy, didn’t go to shake hands with Hitler.
We went to run and run, we did and we had a marvelous time.
So sorry that he didn’t, and where he is, is no particular concern of mine.
For Jesse, it wasn’t Hitler who he felt snubbed by but another world leader will get into that after the break.
Before the break Sprinter, Jesse Owens had just won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
When his ship docks back in New York, he receives a hero’s welcome.
He’s greeted by thousands of people including his family, several well-known politicians and 300 reporters.
All vying to ask him questions.
There’s a New York ticker-tape parade held in his honor, where he’s buried around in a black convertible, but that wash of love.
He gets on his return.
It only lasts for so long.
I came back to America hailed as a hero, the ticker-tape parades and many cities.
New York City, my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
And wherever I went.
For 10 days. and after those 10 days, then you were regulated to the back of the bus.
You cannot eat in first class restaurants.
You could not stay in first class hotels, but yet and still you aren’t America and yet and still you were a hero, but the social structure of America remain firm.
That’s how long Jesse Owens is celebrated.
That’s how long it takes for the sheen of Olympic Victory to wear off and for the realities of black life and 1930s America to set back in, like, when Owens is invited to a reception at the Waldorf, Astoria Hotel in New York City to honor him, and other Olympians, when he shows up, he’s told, he has to use the freight elevator to get to the event.
The event being held in his honor.
Then to make matters worse, Jessie never gets any recognition of his accomplishments from his own national leader President.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s after the games.
Roosevelt had invited white Olympic medal winners to the White House, but he didn’t extend the honor to Black winners including Jesse Owens.
Professor large says this really bothered.
He went on to say that the Roosevelt was really the one who snubbed him because Roosevelt hadn’t sent him any telegrams to congratulate him on his four victories in Berlin.
Damn, a brother.
Can’t even get a telegram, shit.
So his accomplishments aren’t acknowledged by his own president, and then Jesse’s other hopes for recognition.
Begin to fall apart, too.
He tried to make a living out of this track victories in Berlin, he tried.
But he couldn’t.
Jesse’s intention after winning, all those goals was to flip, his Newfound, Fame.
And to some more lucrative Financial opportunities while he still abroad.
He’s offered $40,000 to do an American Vaudeville tour.
He’s got his eyes set on Commercial deals, racing opportunities, but then the Vaudeville tour never happens.
The national endorsement deals, never materialized.
Jesse gets the message that companies especially in the South don’t want, as he He puts it the Negroes picture on any brand.
When Jesse was competing in the Olympics.
The American Press had been so appalled by the racism of the Nazi regime, but here he is dealing with similar barriers at home.
Jesse doesn’t care about a handshake from Hitler.
He wants equal opportunity in America.
It’s part of what he was running for after winning the golden Berlin.
He writes this in a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier.
Millions of Americans will recognize now what I and the boys of my race are trying to do as attempted for the glory of our country.
And our countrymen, Jesse continues, maybe more people will realize that the Negro is trying to do his full part as an American citizen.
But mine’s don’t change that fast back home with all his hopes vanished.
He realizes, he’s not living in the America.
He hoped could do better.
He’s living in the America.
He always knew the America were just a few short Generations ago.
His grandfather was Enslaved, the America, and which his parents were sharecroppers, and where he, as a little kid, picked a hundred pounds of cotton a day.
The one where Athletics were his best.
Hope out of poverty.
And the one where his college coach Larry Snyder told him he had to be so careful not to upset white people.
He had a coach who was constantly telling him.
He had to mind his p’s and q’s because, you know, he could get in big trouble, if he, if he ever spoke out or did anything that made him look uppity and he was constantly on me about the job that I was to do.
And the responsibilities that I had of on that campus and how I must be able to carry myself, because people would looking, everybody’s eyes were upon you, and it was group.
Everything that you did.
And so therefore, you have to be very careful to get tired of this sometimes.
Oh, yes, you get tired of living in a glass bowl.
But sometimes people forget you’re a human being and that you youyou.
No different than any other Mortal man that you would like to do things the same as anyone else would like to do, but people won’t let you do it.
And yet Jesse wasn’t the same as any other Mortal man.
He was extraordinary and the fact that he was so extraordinary did help to challenge racist theories.
That whites were genetically Superior in every way for many, as you know, open-minded people black white, whatever said, you know, this is just great.
I mean here you have proof that African-Americans are equal to anyone but others were looking for ways to explain what a quote, the victories by Oils.
And other African Americans, that wouldn’t force them to accept the idea of equality by finding these various explanations for the victories, and for limiting their scope.
So in a really fucked-up way, as Professor large, says, Jessie’s talents were also used against him, the dominance that he and other black athletes showed proved to be a double-edged sword with 1 end, smashing the LIE of white supremacy, but the other er a belief that that dominance was proof of some kind of unfair Advantage kept stabbing them in the back by people in the scientific community and the Press they suggested that well in certain Sports blacks had advantages unnatural Advantage is due to their biological makeup, their chemical makeup their closeness to you know ape I medicate the Smith ape ancestors.
This was the kind of thing you found.
I’m not making this up that this was publicized at the time.
Even Larry Snyder.
Jesse’s longtime coach subscribed to these ideas.
He credited Jesse speed to his natural muscular advantages as a negro and because he always followed orders from his white coaches, man.
Fuck that guy.
So, these were the conditions.
Jesse found himself in after the games hopes for equality dashed, Financial hopes dashed over the course of the next five years or so.
He’s forced to take menial jobs working as a playground maintenance man, a radio Entertainer and a band leader.
He was so strapped for cash that months.
After he got back from the Olympics.
He had to take on gigs staging entertainment races, like racing against the boxer, Joe Louis racing against a car and the horse.
We told you about at the top of the show.
Owens commented on this later in life.
People say it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse.
But what was I supposed to do?
I had four gold medals, but she can’t eat 4 gold medals.
When he did make a little money, he didn’t properly pay his taxes.
And so we got sued by the IRS.
He opened up, a dry cleaning company that went belly-up.
He had a lot of financial difficulties, but then in the early 40s after multiple Financial failures, things start to get a bit easier for Owens.
In 1942, the military appoints him, the Director of National Fitness a year later.
Ford Motor Company hires him in there.
Recruitment office and in 1949, he opens his own public relations firm and eventually becomes a sought-after speaking figure, finally, finding a way to profit from his Olympic Fame, but Owens is recognition on the national stage, didn’t come until 40 years, after his Olympic Victory, that’s like six presidents.
After FDR, Jesse.
It’s my great privilege to present you today.
In 1976 President Gerald, Ford awarded him.
Presidential medal of freedom.
Finally, Jesse had made it to the White House do Jesse owns.
Humanitarian speaker author.
A master of the spirit as well as the mechanics of sport.
Four years later in 1980.
Jesse Owens died of lung cancer.
He was lauded again, as a national hero.
They buried Jesse Owens today in Chicago.
And they paid him tribute as a champion, not only among athletes.
But among all men, the man who had made his country proud, so many times over so many years. 85 years.
After Jesse Owens took home four Golds.
The treatment he received as a black athlete is infuriatingly similar to how black athletes are still treated today.
I can’t help but think about gymnast, Simone biles, and her journey to this year’s Olympics.
In Tokyo to call her an exceptional.
Athlete would be an understatement back in 2016.
She brought home four gold medals Just Like Jesse Owens did in 1936.
So the expectations were sky-high for her performance at this year’s games, but at the women’s team finals, she faltered flubbing The Vault, her best event and eventually pulled out of that and several other events.
It shocked Everyone by has later shared that she pulled out for mental health.
Reasons, many of praised, her for the choice to drop out, but some have criticized her for it.
And the general tone of the criticism seems to be, we don’t care if you’re not feeling.
Ang it by not competing by not winning gold.
You let your country down.
The racism contained in that attitude as subtle if you’re not attuned to it.
It’s not as overt as the Discrimination, Jesse Owens faced, but it cuts just the same.
This was what I really hear when I hear that take we value you only so far as what you’re able to deliver meet our expectations and will continue to raise them fail, to meet them and we’ll stop valuing you.
We care about what you do for us and only for us.
So my question is, once the mon comes home from the games.
How will America received her will?
We love Simone biles as much as we do when she’s bringing home?
Gold medals have we left enough room in our impossible.
Expectations of her expectations?
She has regularly met and exceeded to allow her to be human.
And a tweet following her withdrawal, Simone wrote the outpouring of love and support.
I’ve received has made me realized.
I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics, which I never truly believed before to see someone like Simone Express this Revelation about her own value.
To be honest, freaks me out.
Even the goat.
Can’t leave space for the humanity in herself, but I can’t blame her.
It’s an American tradition to use black athletes for their talents and discard the rest.
And until we change that the story for black athletes in America will continue to look a lot like the tragedy of Jesse Owens and adopting their narrative and their success as a national symbol of Pride will remain problematic and frankly dishonest.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was produced by Sarah Craig.
We have a story about a robbery.
The robbery of someone’s shot at Fame and their voice.
I start getting phone calls.
Wait a minute.
What’s going on?
Why is she singing to you?
What is he lip-syncing to your vocals a lot?
Our producer is Kinsey Clark.
The associate producer is Julie, Carly.
Our intern is Laura Newcombe.
The supervising producer is Erica, Morrison editing by Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart Ponte fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Bobby, Lord, original music, by sacks kicks.
Willie Green Day, blessed, Peter, Leonard and Bobby.
Our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton.
Technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte.
The executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.
Thanks to David clay, large Damien, Thomas Megan, Clint worth Elizabeth.
Druga Hallie mayor’s.
Greg, Kenny Lydia Pole Green, Dan Behar and Clara Sankey Emily wiedemann.
Liz Styles and Nabil cholan pot the interview you You heard of Jesse Owens is courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, follow not past it.
Now to listen for free exclusively on Spotify and follow me on Twitter at Simone polenin.
Thanks for hanging.
We’ll see you next week.