(Letter) Jesse Owens, Hitler and Olympics (narratives and history as it really happened)
In some quarters, the Beijing Olympics were compared to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During the debates of that IMHO ill-conceived moniker “Genocide Olympics”, Jesse Owens’ name was often used. A dominant narrative was that in 1936 the more progressive United States, sent in some black athletes such as Jesse Owens to the Nazi Germany. The fantastic performance of Jesse Owens gave a black eye to Hitler.
Was it the history as it really happened? Hardly. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens
“When I passed the Chancellor [Hitler] he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany.”
He also stated: “Hitler didn’t snub me — it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.” Jesse Owens was never invited to the White House nor bestowed any honors by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) or Harry S. Truman during their terms. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower acknowledged Owens’ accomplishments, naming him an “Ambassador of Sports.”
Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and later ordinary Germans sought his autograph when they saw him in the streets. Owens was allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels as whites, an irony at the time given that blacks in the United States were denied equal rights. After a New York ticker-tape parade in his honor, Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend his own reception at the Waldorf-Astoria.
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