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Essay about Achievements of the Great Athlete, James Cleveland Owens

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Born in Oakville, Alabama on September 12, 1913, James Cleveland Owens would prove to be one of the greatest athletes of his time. He was the seventh child born to Henry Cleveland and Emma Alexander Owens. Being that Owens was the son of a sharecropper, a grandson of a slave and an African-American, he was treated with disrespect and indecency (Trust 1). “J.C.”, as people called him, was not born into fame and a luxurious lifestyle; however his determination and willingness to succeed made his family background seem inconsequential. Defying the beliefs of racism during his time, James Owens (later known as Jesse) was one of the first men to change the way people viewed athletes of his kind, but more importantly the people of his race.
Since Owens and his family were living during a time of segregation, they were not given equal opportunities or rights. The children had to work every day to help make enough money for the family, making school unimportant. When Owens did not have enough clothes to wear, he hid from neighborhood girls to cover his body. Being kind of ashamed of his lifestyle, he made sure to work hard in school and set goals for himself. Only learning limited reading and writing during his first year of school, Owens came home with the motivation to someday go off to “kolledge”. His mother stated that if he worked hard, maybe someday he could go (Josephson 16-17).
The Owens family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when James Owens was just nine years old, where he would get the name that came to be known around the world. Because Owens had a southern accent, J.C.’s teacher heard ‘Jesse’ when she asked him his name (Trust 1). The Owens’ house had exciting new luxuries and they got to eat more often. The whole family worke...


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...emic probation during his second semester (JOF 3). In 1934, the Amateur Athletic Union elected Owens into the All-American Track and Field Team. His nickname became the ‘Buckeye Bullet’ because OSU’s sports teams were called the Buckeyes (Josephson 38). Owens attended the Big Ten Conference Championships on May 25, 1935, and left with three world records and tied a fourth (Trust 2). Later on, his coach Larry Snyder explained “There is no pounding of the track when he runs; his feet kiss the track like a billiard ball when it clicks; he doesn’t bruise the cinders” (qtd. in Josephson 45). In between setting world records, attending college, and working on his strength, Owens had to have many jobs to support him and his young wife, Ruth. Some of his jobs were the following: night elevator operator, waiter, page in the Ohio statehouse, and he also pumped gas (JOF 3).


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