Write a Letter to Jesse Owens

Grade Levels: 5 - 7


  • Student will learn about the accomplishments of Jesse Owens.
  • Students will learn about the views of the Nazi Party and the state of the Civil Rights movement in America in 1936.
  • Students will practice their letter writing skills.



  1. Explain to students that they will be learning about runner Jesse Owens and what his accomplishments symbolized to the world.

  2. Distribute the two handouts and go over them with the students.

  3. Discuss world events and the state of civil rights in 1936.

  4. Ask students to generate a list of different types of people who may have been watching the 1936 Olympics. (Nazi supporters, Hitler, members of various ethnic groups, a black American, other athletes, etc.). Write the roles Nazi Supporter, Fellow Athlete, and African American as headings at the top of the board.

  5. Ask students to generate a list of emotions each group of people may have felt watching Jesse Owens' victories during the track and field events.

  6. Direct students to select one of the roles on the board, disregarding their personal feelings. Explain that they will be pretending to be a Nazi, an athlete, or an African American.

  7. Give students time to research the Nazi Party's views and the state of the Civil Rights Movement in America in 1936.

  8. From the point of view of their selected role, instruct students to write a letter to Jesse Owens describing their political beliefs and their feelings about his accomplishments in specific detail.

  9. Once the letters have been edited by either a teacher or a peer, break the class into small groups, and have students read their letters aloud to one another.

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