140728-2497.CR2 (Focus Feature Press)

Focus Feature Press

Race teaches younger audience history, importance of Jesse Owens

February 25, 2016

Jesse Owens is known as the most famous athlete in track and field history. He was a husband, a father, four time Olympic gold medalist and an American hero.


Owens attended Ohio State University where, at the 1935 Big Ten track meet, he set three world records and tied a fourth within 45 minutes. This amazing achievement has been called “the greatest 45 minutes in ever in a sport.”


When he qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the decision to compete was not an easy one for Owens, unlike most Olympic athletes.


Owens was an African-American man, and in Columbus, Ohio, he was treated with disrespect and racism every day of his life. When the American Olympic Committee (AOC) announced the United States would not be boycotting the Berlin Games, there was an outcry from the African-American community saying that Owens should not compete in Hitler-ruled Germany.


Ultimately, Owens did go to Berlin. Owens competed in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, long jump and the 4×100 meter relay, in front of Hitler, taking home a gold medal for each event.


The biographical film Race, which was released on Feb. 19, showcases both Owens’ struggles and his triumphs throughout his life.


The movie is more than two hours long, but it moved along at a quick pace – which was fitting for the subject. It moves through Owens’ life, beginning with him leaving for college at OSU and ending after he returns home from Berlin.


The best part of the movie is the emotional connection between actors Stephen James (Owens), and Jason Sudeikis, who plays Owens’ assertive and loud-talking coach, Larry Snyder. The scenes with James and Sudeikis together are the strongest; the emotions between their characters are harsh, strong and believable. Their relationship grows throughout the movie, and when Owens wins his fourth Olympic gold medal, the celebration between the two of them is truly remarkable to watch.


Race also piques the audience’s interest by outlining the racism that Owens faced in Ohio, creating a connection to the much larger scale of racism towards African-Americans during this time period. Although the transitions are a bit tenuous at times, the connection between American and German persecution is hard hitting.

Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”

— Jesse Owens


However, as AOC president Avery Brundage said in Race, “Politics has no place in sport,” and the film is an incredible showcase of Owens athletic ability, as well as his political impact.

The film is supported by the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group. Owens is survived by his two daughters, who were both in attendance at an advanced screening of the movie held at OSU.

Owens has had a widespread and lasting impact on athletes, the African-American community and the entire world. His strength in the face of adversity is an inspiration and Race will simply help his legacy live on.

As Owens said, “Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”