Jesse Owens

image for Jesse Owens
Exhibition Label
Born Oakville, Alabama
Adolph Hitler intended the 1936 Berlin Olympics to be a grand statement celebrating “Deutschland Uber Alles.” But Jesse Owens, a grandson of slaves, heroically interrupted Hitler’s intention to make the games a showcase for Aryan supremacy.
A track and field star at Ohio State, Owens had broken five world records in 1935, but these were just a prelude for his Olympian performance a year later. Photographed by documentary filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl as he competed in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, Owens broke or equaled nine Olympic records and set three world records. Most important, he won four gold medals—in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay, and the long jump.
In 1950 an Associated Press poll voted Jesse Owens the greatest track and field star of the first half of the twentieth century. He was awarded a Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford in 1976, and a street in Berlin was named in his honor in 1984.
Exterior\Sports arena
Jesse Owens: Male
Jesse Owens: Business and Finance\Businessperson
Jesse Owens: Sports and Recreation\Athlete\Track & Field
Jesse Owens: Business and Finance\Businessperson\Executive\Public Relations
Jesse Owens: Olympic Medal
Jesse Owens: Presidential Medal of Freedom
Jesse Owens: Congressional Gold Medal
National Portrait Gallery
Restrictions & Rights
© Leni Riefenstahl Productions
Leni Riefenstahl, 22 Aug 1902 - 8 Sep 2003
Jesse Owens, 12 Sep 1913 - 31 Mar 1980
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 20.3 x 20.7 cm (8 x 8 1/8")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6 cm (22 x 16")
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Jesse Owens: American\African American