The American team at the 1936 games consisted of 359 men and women, 18 of them black. Still, most attention goes to Jesse Owens. Understandable somewhere, considering that he won four gold medals, but it does not do justice to the other participants. It is a bit similar to the landing on the moon, everyone knows the name Armstrong, but not the names of the other two men on the moon. (yes, just google it ..)
The other black participants were also successful. Cornelius Johnson won gold in the high jump, John Woodruff gold in the 800 meter sprint, Ralph Metcalfe with his team gold in the 4x 100 meter relay, Dave Albritton silver in the high jump and Mack Robinson silver in the 200 meter sprint. In total the black athletes would win 14 medals, a quarter of what the US had won in total.
It was a time when race was much more important than today. In the homeland of America so-called Jim Crow laws applied in the southern states, which ensured a strict separation between the races. They lived, worked and lived separately from each other.
The newspapers of the time give an indication of that image; Ohio's state great negro speedster, the negro sportsman, are some descriptions of Jesse Owens.
Nowadays, one of the houses (#) is furbished as a tribute to Jesse Owens. You would expect; the best man is of course also discriminated the racist Germany. However, that was not the case, he was having a good time and the audience was supporting him. He was welcomed in the stadium and could not show up anywhere without being harrased and asked for his signature. The latter was also a sport for the public at the time; hunt for signatures of athletes. Also at the entrance of the village were hordes of fans who wanted a glimpse and scribble.
It is also often mentioned that Hitler did not want to award him a medal, but that is a fable. Hitler shook his hand. Back in his own country it became clear to him that he still had a skin color there that did not suit everyone, four gold medals or not. President Roosevelt did not congratulate him, and at the ceremony in his honor at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York he was not allowed to use the main entrance but had to take the freight elevator up. People did not want the blacks in the elevator for people, and with that the Negroes were pretty much equated to one thing instead of a person.
Something striking and unimaginable nowadays; there was of course a presidential homage for the American athletes who had won a medal. For the other athletes it was in 1936 after returning, but for the black athletes only in 2016, with President Obama. This as a saving grace for the missed homage in 1936 ..
The above is also curious when you consider the history of American participation in the games. Votes were raised not to let the US participate at all, partly because of the racism in Germany towards Jews. That caused a lot of discussion and turmoil. But at the same time, the US was not without blame for drawing the 'stop discrimination card'. The black athletes who had won medals for the American flag and for America were not considered as part of America, or at most as an undesirable part. Only in 1964 would segregation laws be abolished in the USA.
Today the appreciation for black athletes such as Jesse Owens is great. This can be seen in the revenue of medals at auctions. In the first instance, people may be inclined to think; these remain forever with the owner, and otherwise in the family? But the reality is that there is a supply and demand market for medals won by athletes at Olympics. The big outlier is the amount that one of the four gold medals that Jesse Owens had won. This was sold at an auction in 2016 for nearly 1.5 million US dollars. That made it a new record and a kind of retribution afterwards
According to Agon, an important auction house in the field of sports history, this is unique and one-off; normally a gold medal from the 1936 games raises between € 10 and 15,000.
(#) but not the original house where he slept, it is next door.