At the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, track and field star Jesse Owens ran himself straight into international glory by winning four gold medals. But the life of Jesse Owens is much more than a sports story. Born in rural Alabama under the oppressive Jim Crow laws, Owens's family suffered many hardships. As a boy he worked several jobs like delivering groceries and working in a shoe repair shop to make ends meet. But Owens defied the odds to become a sensational student athlete, eventually running track for Ohio State. He was chosen to compete in the Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany where Adolf Hitler was promoting the idea of “Aryan superiority.” Owens’s winning streak at the games humiliated Hitler and crushed the myth of racial supremacy once and for all.
About the Author
James Buckley, Jr. has written more than 50 books for kids, including Who Was Ernest Shackleton?
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Who Was Jesse Owens?
In rural Alabama, Jesse Owens sprinted across farmland and ran along dirt roads. He ran to the fields where he picked one hundred pounds of cotton a day. He ran to the orchards where he and his large family picked fruit from the trees. He ran with friends, playing games when they were not working alongside their parents.
Jesse ran because it made him feel free.
“I always loved running,” he later said. “It was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet.”
“Jesse would run and play just like everyone else,” his cousin Mattie Taylor said of those days of playing in Alabama. “But you could never catch him.”
Excerpted from "Who Was Jesse Owens?"
Copyright © 2015 James Buckley.
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