Jesse Owens: Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man

(1970)

In 1970 the U.S. Olympian track-and-field athlete Jesse Owens published Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man, reflecting on his life and career and discussing the civil rights conflicts of the day. Owing to his sports achievements, Owens was a national hero in the United States. Despite his fame, when he returned home from the 1936 Olympics, the climate of race relations in the United States had made it difficult for him to secure employment or translate his sporting success into material gains. He believed that the Black Power radicals had benefited greatly from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and that their ongoing agitation was unfounded.

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City on October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African American sprinters who had just won gold and bronze medals, respectively, appeared at their medal ceremony shoeless but wearing black socks (to symbolize black poverty) and a black glove on one hand. They bowed...

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Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics (Library of Congress)

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