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Back in the Day: Jesse Owens reigns on Hitler's parade

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Back in the Day: Jesse Owens reigns on Hitler's parade


August 3. 1936. African-American athlete Jesse Owens wins the 100 metres sprint final at the Berlin Olympics. Adolf Hitler was keen to use the Games to show the world the resurgent power of Nazi Germany and promote his belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. Only Aryan athletes were selected to represent Germany. It was widely reported that Hitler snubbed Owens after his 100 metre victory and refused to shake his hand. This claim has been contested; Owens himself says Hitler waved at him shortly after the race and in fact Hitler had decided not to greet any athletes, not just Owens. One of the Führer’s aides, Albert Speer, has said though that Hitler told him that “people whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive”, that they had a natural physical advantage over “civilised whites” and should be excluded from future Games.” Owens went on to win gold medals in the long jump, the 200 metres and the 4 × 100 metre relay. He remarked upon his return to the the US, where racial segregation was still widely practised, “Hitler didn’t snub me – it was FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.” (picture from Ohio State University Archives)

Also on August 3: Christopher Colombus sets sail from Spain to later discover the ‘New World’ (1492); Germany declares war on France (1914); founding of the National Basketball Association, or NBA, in the United States (1949); Niger gains independence from France (1960).

Born on August 3: Rupert Brooke (1887), PD James (1920), Martin Sheen (1940), James Hetfield (1963), Mathieu Kassovitz (1963), Tom Brady (1977).

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