While history remembers Jessie Owens’ sprinting and long jump victories during the 1936 Berlin Olympics—viewed as an affront to the White supremacist ideologies of both Nazi Germany and Jim Crow America—it too often overlooks the 17 other Black American athletes who participated in those infamous games.
Director Deborah Riley Draper ("Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution") tells their stories in "Olympic Pride, American Prejudice." "The fact that they were present and accounted for, [along with] their presence on the medal stand, sent a message on both sides of the Atlantic," Draper told The Root.
Draper said that she came across the story while doing research on Valaida Snow, a Black jazz musician held in Nazi-controlled Denmark during World War II. "When [Valaida] returned home, she referenced these athletes, and I was astounded by the fact that there were 17 other people than Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics."
The Root also listed the athletes’ names, sports and medals:
Ralph Metcalfe (4×100-meter relay, gold; 100-meter dash, silver); Jackie Robinson’s older brother, Mack Robinson (200-meter dash, silver); Cornelius Johnson (high jump, gold); Dave Albritton (high jump, silver); James LuValle (400-meter run, bronze); John Woodruff (800-meter run, gold); Archie Williams (400-meter run, gold); Frederick “Fritz” Pollard Jr. (100-meter hurdles, bronze); John Brooks (broad jump); Jack Wilson (bantamweight boxing, silver); Art Oliver (heavyweight boxing); Howell King (heavyweight boxing); Willis Johnson (heavyweight boxing); James Clark Atkinson (middleweight boxing); John Terry (weightlifting); Tidye Pickett (women’s track and field); and Louise Stokes (women’s track and field).
The movie arrives 80 years after that competition and on the eve of this year’s summer games in Rio de Janeiro.
"Olympic Pride, American Prejudice," which screened at several film festivals last and this year, opens in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday (August 5). The Root mentioned plans to screen in 10 cities next month. A DVD, which drops on December 6, is also available for preorder via Amazon. Watch the trailer above.