Looking to own a piece of Olympic history? One of the gold medals won by track star Jesse Owens during the 1936 Olympics is currently being sold in an online auction.
Owens won gold in the 100 and 200 meters, the 400 relay and the long jump during the Berlin Games. “You’ve got an African American, son of a sharecropper, grandson of slaves who overcame these incredible circumstances and delivered a performance for the ages,” explained Dan Imler, SCP Auctions partner.
Despite his profound athletic achievements, Owens struggled to provide for his family when he returned home from the Olympics because of segregation. “Even though he came back an Olympic hero, he wasn’t offered opportunities that Olympic heroes of today are offered,” revealed his daughter, Marlene Owens Rankin. “We lived well, a middle class life. We didn’t want for much. But like many black men of that era, he struggled to provide for his family.”
Though the whereabouts of the other three original gold medals is unknown, Imler claims that Owens gave one of the gold medals to actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. “They formed a friendship and also a professional relationship. Bojangles helped Owens get work in the entertainment field,” he said. “Owens gave him this medal out of gratitude and as a token of their friendship.”
The medal currently available for purchase comes from the estate of Robinson’s widow. “We just hope that it’s purchased by an institution where the public could have access to it, a museum or something like that,” enthused Rankin.
The auction closes on Dec. 7.
Photo credit: SCP Auctions