This Day In History: September 12

One hundred and nine years ago today, Jesse Owens, an African American athlete, was born in 1913 in Oakville, Alabama.

Owens was the youngest of ten children with three older sisters and six older brothers. He went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and won four gold medals. Owens famously humiliated Hitler by beating Germany and setting four world records in Track and Field, causing the widely known photo of Adolf Hitler leaving the stadium after his win.

There were many concerns with Owens competing in Berlin due to the state of Germany at the time with World War 2 on the brink of beginning and the prejudice against non-Aryans. The secretary of the NAACP was concerned  about what would happen to Owens so he wrote, but never sent, a letter trying to convince him not to attend the Olympics in Berlin that summer. After his wins against Berlin in the 1936 Olympics, he accepted a job as a playground instructor for underprivileged youth, making as little as $30 a week.

Owens was a big part of his community in Cleveland, Ohio. He owned a basketball team, ran a dry cleaning business, and was a bandleader. In 1965, Owens wrote a book titled “Blackthink: My Life As a Black Man and A White Man”. Five years later, in 1970, Owens was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.