Calendar of Cool: Jesse Owens Wins Olympic Gold

On August 9, 1936, Jesse Owens became the first American to win four medals in a single Olympics.


The Olympic Games were being held in Berlin, Germany that year, and the racist rhetoric being spread by Adolf Hitler at the time made African-American Owens’ success even more noteworthy. Owens set new Olympic records in the long jump, 200-meter dash, and 4×100 meter relay, some of which stood for twenty years.


Hitler had been counting on the Olympic Games to prove his racial and political theories that Fascism was stronger than democracy, and that the Aryan “master race” of Germany was physically superior to any other racial group. After Nazi German athletes were soundly beaten in many events, the propaganda machine surrounding the Games ground to a halt. Jesse Owens’ stunning victory was not only a momentous occasion in sport, but a moral victory over Hitler, who refused to congratulate Owens.

A record-breaking athletic milestone and a blow against Nazi ideology? Amazingly cool.



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