Jesse Owens, Olympic Athlete

1913-1980
Track and Field Athlete and Olympic Star
Birthplace: Oakville, AL

James Cleveland Owens was born in 1913 in Alabama. His parents, Emma and Henry Owens, were sharecroppers. When J.C. was eight, his parents decided to move the family north to Cleveland, OH, where he was nicknamed Jesse. At Cleveland East Technical High School, Jesse became a track star. During his senior year, he tied the world record in the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.4 seconds.

Jesse was recruited by Ohio State University. At that time, the United States was segregated and when he traveled with the track team, Jesse had to stay in "blacks only" hotels and ate in "blacks-only" restaurants.

Jesse competed at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he won the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the broad (long) jump. He was also a key member of the 400-meter relay team that won the gold medal. Jesse was the first American track and field Olympian to win four gold medals in one day. Jesse set three world records and tied a fourth. When he returned to the U.S. he was greeted by a ticker-tape parade.

Jesse ran professionally until 1948; he set seven world records during his career. After he retired, Jesse went into the public relations industry. Owens believed that athletic competition could help solve racial and political problems, and he sponsored youth sports programs all over the United States. In 1976, President Ford awarded him the Medal of Freedom.

On March 31, 1980, Jesse Owens died at the age of 66 from complications due to cancer.


Related Resources

Black History Month Encyclopedia of Prominent African Americans.

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of expertly curated worksheets, activities, and lessons created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus

Highlights

Win a HueHD Prize Pack!
We’re sending you Back to School with HueHD! Join the Maker Movement with Hue’s Animation Studio, HD Pro Document Camera, and Tablet Stand. Every week in September, one lucky teacher will win the ultimate classroom and STEAM bundle. Encourage students to create, innovate, tinker, and explore! Enter Now!

2016 Presidential Elections
Election season is here. Help your students understand the process of our national elections, from the President down to local representatives, with our election activities. Read short biographies of presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R), explore mock election ideas, create presidential trading cards, learn election vocabulary, play election bingo and more!

September Calendar of Events
September is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum! Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: U.S. Constitution Week (9/17-23), International Day of Peace (9/21), Autumn Begins (9/22), and Banned Books Week (9/25-10/1). Plus, celebrate Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Classical Music Month, Hispanic Heritage Month (9/15-10/15), Hunger Action Month, Hunger Action Month, Library Card Sign-Up Month, National Sickle Cell Month all September long!