Jesse Owens represented the United States during the 1936 Summer Olympics – hosted in Berlin and often termed the “Nazi Olympics.” Hitler was the state representative at the festivities (the head of the host country often serves in this position even today). The 1936 Summer Olympics were famous for the prominent displays of Nazi paraphernalia and propaganda. Hitler had intended for the Olympics to be a demonstration of the superior athleticism of the “Aryan Peoples” of Germany. However, after the clear victories of Owens at the games, Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) reported the Führer as saying:
Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made him happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games. (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Jesse Owens’ participation in the game was controversial as America still practiced wide-spread segregation throughout the country. Even so, while in Germany, Owens was allowed to use public transportation and stay in desegregated hotels.
Owens’ success in the games was highlighted by his four gold medals – 100m, the Long Jump, 200m, and the 4 x 100m relay. He was a hugely popular participant at the games and was adored by the German spectators. In spite of his success and popularity, on his return Owens was snubbed by the President (Franklin D. Roosevelt) – receiving no acknowledgment from the President recognizing his immense success.