Sport: Man vs. Myth

Jesse Owens: 1913-1980

He was a superlative athlete, but that was almost incidental to the role he came to play in history. He happened to be black, and his timing was perfect. Thus James Cleveland ("Jesse") Owens became forever a symbol of the triumph of the individual over man's more malevolent impulses. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which Adolf Hitler hoped would be a showcase of Aryan supremacy, Owens won four gold medals in track and field events, a feat not equaled since. The sight of the graceful American's soaring victory in the long jump and his Olympic-record wins in the...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!