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Jesse Owens, from U.S. Olympic hero in front of Hitler to freight elevator in NY City

Reprint from 2013

Yet he could not meet with the president in the White House after winning the gold.

Jesse Owens received a ticker tape parade in New York after winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, a true hero. He embarrassed Adolf Hitler, who wanted to prove the superiority of the Aryan race.

Owens established three world records with his showing in Berlin in 1936, tying another. It was a tremendous performance, making him a national hero in America — sort of.

Owens was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century, and he was featured as one of ESPN's 100 Heroes of the Century in 2000.

However, the show demonstrated that while Americans cheered Owens' four gold medals, and after they cheered as he was celebrated in a ticker-tape parade in New York City, he was humiliated as he tried to reach a reception in his honor:

On August 9, the 4x100 relay team, with Owens running leadoff, won by 15 yards and its world-record time of 39.8 seconds would last 20 years. Upon Owens' return to New York and a ticker-tape parade, he had to ride the freight elevator to a reception in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria. He was treated as a kind of curiosity. When endorsements didn't come his way, he made money by, among other activities, running against horses and dogs.

ESPN, “Sports Heroes of the Century,” 1999:

So, Jesse, we love you, but please do not move in next to us or try to use our elevator. In addition, do not expect to be given a job that whites need or take one of our seats.

Owens later explained his problem,

When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about [embarrassing] Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.

“Jesse Owens,” Digital History, 2021

We have made great progress, but the duplicity is sickening -- and it still exists today. These people attend church every Sunday, but they do not have any love for others in their hearts.

And they say America is a “Christian Country.”

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