Timeline Description: Jesse Owens was an African American athlete known as the fastest man in the world. He won four gold medals for track and field in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany. His achievements at this Olympic game shattered Adolf Hitler's notion that German whites were far superior than anyone in the world.
|September 12, 1913||Jesse Owens is born in Oakville, Alabama.
Born on September 12, 1913 in Oakville, Alabama, James Cleveland Owens is the last of ten children to Henry and Emma Owens. He is fondly called J.C. by his family. They are sharecroppers, who work the land in exchange for a house, tools, and half of the produced crop.
|1919||Owens works the fields and goes to school.
Often sick as a child, Owens at age six has the strength to work in the fields with his brothers and sisters. When he is not needed, Owens attends school where he learns to read and write. He also loves to run.
|1922||Family moves to Cleveland, Ohio.
The life of a sharecropper is very hard. Owens sister Lillie moves to Cleveland and finds work. She invites her family to come to Ohio to start a new life. The family moves to Cleveland in 1922 when Owens is 9 years old. He attends Bolton Elementary where the teacher mistakenly calls him Jesse.
|1927||Owens attends Fairmount Junior High.
At Fairmount Junior High, Owens meets Charles Riley, the athletics coach. Riley takes an interest in the young boy, training him to run in the early mornings before school so Owens can work in the afternoons. Riley becomes like a second father to him.
|1930||Owens attends East Technical High School.
The depression starts. Owens' father breaks his leg and cannot work. His brothers lose their jobs. Owens wants to quit school to help, but his mother wants him to stay. He attends East Technical High, where Riley becomes assistant coach and continues to work with the young athlete.
|1932||Owens tries out for the 1932 Olympic Team.
Owens is being recognized as a good runner. He wins many of his races. In the summer of 1932, he tries out for the Olympic team, only to get nervous. He loses three big races.
|1933||Owens graduates from East Tech.
In his senior year at East Tech, Owens is voted as student body president as is made squad captain of the track team. He graduates on May 20, 1933. He wins 4 medals at the National Interscholastic Meet in Chicago. Many colleges want him, but he decides to attend Ohio State.
|1935||Owens wins Big Ten Championship.
Owens is now being trained by Larry Snyder, the track coach at Ohio State. They work to improve his technique. He wins 3 out of 4 events at the Big Ten Conference in February of 1935, and then goes on to tie one world record and break five others at the Big Ten Championships in May.
|July 5, 1935||Owens Marries Ruth Solomon.
In between track meets, Owens marries his long time girlfriend Ruth Solomon. Poor grades keep him from competing in the winter season at Ohio State, but he is able to come back in the spring of 1936. He sets a new record in May for the 100-yard dash.
|June 1936||Owens competes in the Olympic trials.
Although some athletes talk about avoiding the 1936 Olympics in Germany in protest of Adolf Hitler, the U.S. decides to compete. Owens performs well at the tryouts and becomes one of nineteen African American athletes to be part of the U.S. Olympic Team.
|August 18,1936||Owens competes in the Olympic games in Berlin, Germany.
Much to the dismay of Hitler, who wants to prove that the German race is better than everyone else, Owens becomes a popular and respected athlete at the games. He wins gold medals for the 100-meter race, the broad jump, the 200-meter race, and the 400-meter relay.
|August 1936||Owens is permanently suspended (Late August 1936).
The American Athletic Union (AAU) makes the winning athletes travel through Europe to help raise money. Tired from all the hard work, Owens leaves for the U.S. early. This angers the AAU. He can no longer compete in any amateur competition, including college events.
|1936||Owens finds ways to make money (Fall 1936).
Trying to use his new celebrity status, Owens hires an agent who finds a variety of events that Owens can compete in to make money. He gives talks, attends banquets, runs in mock races, etc. He continues these ventures for the next several years. Owens enjoys keeping himself busy.
|1940||War time jobs (1940 - 1945).
World War II begins and Owens is asked to set up exercise programs for African American youths for the Civil Defense Office. He is later hired by the Ford Motor Company as a personnel director to the black employees. He stays at Ford until the end of the war.
|1945 to 1980||Promotions and Public Relations opportunities.
Owens keeps working with many companies, promoting products and giving speeches. He likes being busy, traveling here and there. In 1970 he writes a book called, Blackthink: My Life as a Black Man and White Man. He writes another book in 1972 called, I Have Changed.
|1980||Jesse Owens dies.
In 1979 Owens is diagnosed with lung cancer. He dies on March 31, 1980 in Tuscon, Arizona. Jesse Owens will always be remembered as the fastest man in the world, and an inspiration to future athletes everywhere.