Jesse Owens, an African American, changes the way black athletes and all black
people are viewed by society. He grew up poor, but had the abilities to succeed with his
great athlete talents. The recognition received from his athletic accomplishments enabled
him to become well known and promoted the understanding that African Americans are
just as capable as any other individual.
"James Cleveland (J. C.) Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Oakville,
Alabama to Henry and Emma Owens. He was the youngest of ten children (three
daughters and seven sons.) Owens' parents were sharecroppers (Owens 1). He lived on a
farm raising corn and cotton. He was poor; his clothes were usually ragged and thin.
(Sutcliffe 6) Owens went to church with his family on Sunday. After church the men gathered for races. Owens's father was the best runner around, he thought his father looked like a rushing train( Sutcliffe 9). Owens liked to play tag with his friends, but no one could catch him. (Sutcliffe 15)
In 1922, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in hopes of finding a better job and a way of life (Sutcliffe 8). Owens was nine years old and had to make new friends. At school he got the name "Jesse when his teacher asked him his name and he said "J.C . The teacher thought he said, "Jesse and he was too shy to tell her his name was "J.C (Sutcliffe 12). All the children in the family had to work to help out. At about twelve years of age he began to work after school. He would pump gas, shine shoes, and water plants in a nursery (Sutcliffe 13).
When Owens was fourteen years of age he started Fairmount Junior High School where he started his track career (Owens 1). Here the track coach, Charles Riley saw something special in this new boy with skinny legs (Sutcliffe 14). Owens was asked to join the track team, but he had to work after school and could not attend practice (Sutchiffe 15).
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