Jesse Owens and Civil Rights

During the 1930's some of the Supreme Court justices became more concerned about individual rights and civil liberties. The 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin, Germany affected the Supreme Courts concern on segregation and individual rights. Individual rights became important in the United States was the simple fact that a champion sprinter who participated in the Olympics was black. 

In Germany, during this time, many citizens were trying to boycott Germany because of segregation and prejudice against German Jews by the Nazi government. Americans and others were trying to prevent  the these segregationist policies from becoming enforced. Since Jesse Owens was black, the leader of  Germany (Adolph Hitler) did not want to have Germans face a black man in the Olympics. Hitler thought that the United States citizens were relying on blacks to win for us, so Hitler and his followers (The Nazi Party) taunted Jesse. But the anti-Nazi spectators thought of Jesse as a hero and they embraced him while they chanted his name in the stands. 

Jesse beat the Germans in a number of track and field events, thereby proving that the theory of Aryan supremacy was false. He also made the world realize that blacks are as equally skilled as whites, and that blacks can do anything the whites can do. Also, Jesse realized that he was treated with no more respect in America than in Germany. In comparison with Germany, the segregated South of America was equal to the Nazis because the Nazis treated Jewish people in Germany the same way the Southerners treated blacks in the United States.

 The events of the Nazi Olympics did not have an immediate effect on segregation in America. But after World War II, the US Armed Forced were desegregated in 1948 by President Harry S Truman's executive order. Then in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" was actually a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. It was the efforts of blacks like Jesse Owens, a strong man who stood up to prejudice and adversity, who helped change the attitudes of Americans. His actions led the Supreme Court, and the people of America, to think harder about how they treat blacks, and that maybe America should give them same rights as whites. Because of Jesse Owens and his bravery, that is exactly what took place.


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