This Nazi propaganda film never succeeded because black excellence shut it down.
True
DICK'S Sporting Goods

In a time when racism was infecting Germany and segregation was commonplace in the U.S., one man shattered world records, bridging differences with speed and grace.

That man was Jesse Owens, a black track and field star from Cleveland, Ohio, who had been breaking records since his high school days. On Aug. 4, 1936, at the Olympic Games in Berlin, he not only shattered a record, he foiled some of Hitler's propaganda plans.

Berlin had already won the bid to host the 1936 Olympics, a few years after the Nazi Party rose to power. It was a gesture of inclusion on behalf of the Olympic committee after Germany was devastated by World War I, but fascism was gaining ground in Germany as the Olympics approached.


In response to reports of Jewish athletes being banned from competing on the German Olympic teams, the U.S. and other countries threatened to boycott the 1936 Games.

Many Americans even began calling the 1936 event "The Nazi Games."

Fritz Schilgen carries the torch in the 1936 Olympic Games. Image via Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe/Wikimedia Commons.

"The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed or race," the president of the American Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, responded to Germany’s persecution of Jewish athletes, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia.

However, many black athletes thought the boycott was arbitrary because they suffered racism at home on a daily basis. They viewed the Olympics as a place to transcend racism and change ideas about what it meant to be an American.

Since Germany wanted to avoid a boycott, they promised to include Jewish athletes on their Olympic teams and refrain from promoting Nazi ideology during the Games.

After much deliberation, it was eventually decided that the U.S. would compete.

Germany pretended to put on a show of tolerance and strength as the Olympics host. Nazi propaganda was hidden. Anti-Semitic imagery was temporarily removed. Germany’s 1936 Olympic team included one Jewish athlete, fencer Helene Mayer. But of course, this was nothing but a charade — a form of propaganda in itself. Of course, the Third Reich intended to use the very first televised Olympics (a big deal for all involved) to their advantage.

Not only was Hitler going to show the world he was building a master race, he was going to make a film about it.

He employed Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to film the 1936 Games.

Leni Riefenstahl behind the scenes. Photo by Oswald Burmeister/German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

The footage was indeed released in two parts, titled "Olympia Part I: Festival of the Nations" and "Olympia Part II: Festival of Beauty." The two films were released in 1938, showcasing the Nazi ideal of athletic Aryan bodies, cultivated into machines ready to serve the state.

But here’s the thing — as much as Riefenstahl tried to follow her mandate to show Aryan supremacy and not include footage of black athletes, Owens made the final cut. In fact, he makes direct eye contact with the camera before his long jump win.

Even Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite propagandist, couldn’t hide the truth of Owens' amazing athletic talents.

Owens’ defiant move followed by a series of wins effectively dashed Hitler’s dreams of declaring German superiority.

Jesse Owens at start of record breaking 200 meter race during the Olympic Games 1936 in Berlin. Photo via U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Wikimedia Commons.

On Aug. 3, 1936, he won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash event. The next day, he won the long jump and then the 200-meter sprint on Aug. 5. On Aug. 9, Owens won the gold for the 4x100-meter sprint relay. The medal sweep was a record-breaking feat and was not repeated until 1984.

With only his speed, Owens managed to prove Hitler’s racist theories wrong.

Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and one of his ministers, wrote in his memoir, "Inside the Third Reich" that "[Hitler] was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens."

In the end, it wasn’t German Olympic victories that made the news, it was Jesse Owens.

Jesse Owens in the long jump competition at the 1936 Olympics. Photo via German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

Between the filming and the "Olympia" release, any interest Hollywood previously had in Riefenstahl’s film was disrupted. Eventually, the film was recut into instructional videos for British military recruits. The Nazi material was removed.

Sports have a way of bridging gaps and bringing people of all different backgrounds together, from the athletes, to the cheap seats. Whether it’s athletes from countries across the world competing in the Olympic Games or parents cheering for their child’s baseball game, both spectators and players come together as a team to perform or to cheer.

Though the U.S. still had huge strides to make, and the atrocities of Nazi Germany had yet to be revealed, Owens for a brief moment triumphed over the racism of the 1930s. Breaking records and defying expectations, he became an American hero and a legend shared over the decades.

His historic win carries a message we should take into the present day. Racism has no place in society. It leads to the darkest of places. But discrimination and intolerance is outshined by truth even in the most unexpected times.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Controversy has been brewing for months at the University of Texas at Austin as student-athletes petitioned the school to stop playing the school's alma mater song, "The Eyes of Texas."

The issue is that the origins of the song are allegedly steeped in racism. It was written in 1903 by two students who were inspired by speeches given by then-UT President William Prather, in which he used the phrase "The eyes of Texas are upon you." Prather himself had been inspired by General Robert E. Lee—leader of the Confederate army that fought for the right to own slaves—who used to say "the eyes of the South are upon you."

That's not all. The song is set to the tune "I've Been Workin' On the Railroad," which has its own questionable origins, and according to the Austin American-Statesman, "The song debuted at a Varsity minstrel show, a fundraiser for UT athletics, and was at some points performed by white singers in blackface." (Minstrel shows were a long, disturbing part of America's history of racism, in which white performers made themselves into caricatures of Black people and Black performers acted out cartoonish stereotypes in order to entertain audiences.)

This summer, in the midst of nationwide protests against racial injustice, students at the university launched a petition asking the school to confront its historic ties with the Confederacy in the names of buildings on campus and to formally acknowledge the racial roots of the alma mater song. A second student petition asked the school to replace the song with one that didn't have "racist undertones" in an attempt "to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program."

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

Keep Reading Show less

History books are filled with photos of people we know primarily from their life stories or own writings. To picture them in real life, we must rely on sparse or grainy black-and-white photos and our own imaginations.

Now, thanks to some tech geeks with a dream, we can get a bit closer to seeing what iconic historical figures looked like in real life.

Most of us know Frederick Douglass as the famous abolitionist—a formerly enslaved Black American who wrote extensively about his experiences—but we may not know that he was also the most photographed American in the 19th century. In fact, we have more portraits of Frederick Douglass than we do of Abraham Lincoln.

This plethora of photos was on purpose. Douglass felt that photographs—as opposed to caricatures that were so often drawn of Black people—captured "the essential humanity of its subjects" and might help change how white people saw Black people.

In other words, he used photos to humanize himself and other Black people in white people's eyes.

Imagine what he'd think of the animating technology utilized on myheritage.com that allows us to see what he might have looked like in motion. La Marr Jurelle Bruce, a Black Studies professor at the University of Maryland, shared videos he created using photos of Douglass and the My Heritage Deep Nostalgia technology on Twitter.

Keep Reading Show less