Jesse Owens’ Olympic Medal Up For Auction

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During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens burst Nazi propaganda myths with his world-record-setting 100-yard dash. Now, one of the four medals that Owens earned during the Berlin Games is being held in a secure room amongst baseball bats, jerseys and other sports memorabilia to be auctioned by SCP Auctions.

The medal–being auctioned online–not only tells the story of Owens shattering Hitler’s plans to use the games to showcase his ideas of Aryan supremacy, it also recounts an unlikely friendship between Owens and actor and dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

After winning four gold medals during the 1936 games, Owens returned to the states to find that he had been stripped of his amateur athlete status and was faced with limited opportunities. His daughter Marlene Owens Rankin, 74, recalls, ” When they came back, the U.S. was just as it was when he left — segregated. Even though he came back an Olympic hero, he wasn’t offered opportunities that Olympic heroes of today are offered.” During this time, Robinson befriended Owens since he too knew the struggle of finding work as a talented African American during segregation. Robinson helped Owens gain work in the entertainment industry and eventually Owens gifted Robinson with one of his four medals.

The medal came to SCP Auctions from the estate of Robinson’s widow. Although the family has declined to say exactly what the proceeds from the sale will go to they did tell SCP that a portion will go to pay college tuition and another portion will be donated to charity.

The other four medals are still unaccounted for, however Owens’ daughter hopes they are in a place where the public can have access to them and remember how her father, the son of a sharecropper, overcame incredible obstacles to give the performance of a lifetime on the track in Berlin.

The auction closed on December 7, 2013.