: : Inside: 10 parent-approved children’s books about Jesse Owens. : :
James Cleveland Owens were born in Oakville, Alabama on September 12, 1913 where he was affectionately known as J.C. It wasn’t until his family moved to Ohio where he earned his nickname. When he was introducing himself to his teacher, she misheard his name: J.C. as Jesse. From that day on he was known as Jesse Owens.
This book list contains 10 children’s books about Jesse Owens, including picture books, a graphic novel, and more! Keep reading to learn more.
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Descriptions come from Amazon; some are edited for length
Children’s Books about Jesse Owens
A Picture Book of Jesse Owens by David A. Adler
“Jesse Owens was born on a farm to a large family with many siblings. His grandparents had been slaves, and his sharecropper parents were poor. But against all odds, Jesse went on to become one of the greatest athletes in history. He learned to run with such grace that people said he was a ‘floating wonder.’ After setting multiple world records as a college athlete, including three in less than an hour (the greatest 45 minutes in sport) Owens competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Adolf Hitler intended for the games to display Aryan superiority, but Jesse disrupted that plan. He became the first American track-and-field athlete to receive four Olympic gold medals and established his legacy as a hero in the face of prejudice.”
Jesse Owens by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara
“The youngest of ten children, Jesse grew up working in the cotton fields of Alabama. Discovered by his high school track and field coach, Jesse quickly rose to fame as an athlete. He went on the challenge racism on the world stage at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and made new world records. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the athlete and activist’s life.”
Just Like Jesse Owens by Paula Young Shelton
“As a boy, Andrew Young learned a vital lesson from his parents when a local chapter of the Nazi party instigated racial unrest in their hometown of New Orleans in the 1930s. While Hitler’s teachings promoted White supremacy, Andrew’s father, told him that when dealing with the sickness of racism, ‘Don’t get mad, get smart.’ To drive home this idea, Andrew Young Senior took his family to the local movie house to see a newsreel of track star Jesse Owens racing toward Olympic gold, showing the world that the best way to promote equality is to focus on the finish line. The teaching of his parents, and Jesse Owens’ example, would be the guiding principles that shaped Andrew’s beliefs in nonviolence and built his foundation as a civil rights leader and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive By Carole Boston Weatherford
“Jesse Owens grew up during the time of Jim Crow laws, but segregation never slowed him down. After setting world records for track in high school and college, he won a slot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. That year, the Olympics were in Berlin, then controlled by the Nazis, and Hitler was certain they would be a chance to prove to the world that Aryans were superior to all other races. But the triumph of Jesse’s will helped him run through any barrier, winning four gold medals and the hearts of millions, setting two world records, and proving the Nazi dictator unmistakably wrong. The story of Jesse Owens comes alive for young readers with Carole Boston Weatherford’s award-winning free verse poetry.”
Jesse Owens: Athletes Who Made a Difference by Blake Hoena
“In 1936, Adolf Hitler attempted to make the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, a showcase of Nazi superiority with a new stadium and the first television broadcast of the Games. He didn’t account for African-American sprinter and long jumper James Cleveland ‘Jesse’ Owens, who smashed records throughout his track and field career. Owens turned Hitler’s Olympic vision on its head by winning four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump. Along the way, he broke or equaled nine Olympic records and set three world records. In graphic nonfiction style, this biography takes readers from Owens’s early life to his historic athletic triumphs.”
Jesse Owens By Laurie Calkhoven
“Meet Jesse Owens, an African American runner who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin! What made his achievement even more memorable was that Adolph Hitler expected the Olympic Games to be a German showcase. In fact, he criticized the United States for even including black athletes on its Olympic roster. According to many reports, after Owens won his fourth gold medal, Hitler stormed out of the stadium. In 1936 Jesse Owens took a stand against racism and made history.”
Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker by M.M. Eboch
“This inspiring story focuses on Jesse’s childhood. Through hard work and courage, African-American runner Jesse Owens overcame racism, poverty and poor health. He won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, held in Germany under Hitler, proving that Blacks could compete at the highest level. Learn about Jesse’s childhood as the son of sharecroppers in Alabama, his family’s move to the north, his schooling and training, and his challenges at the Olympics in Germany.”
“From the time he was a young boy on a farm in Alabama until he received his fourth Olympic gold medal in Berlin in 1936, all Jesse Owens wanted to do was run. Overcoming sickness, poverty, and racial discrimination, Jesse worked hard, shattered many track and field records, and earned countless medals and trophies. But perhaps his greatest and most important accomplishment came when he stood up to the hatred of Adolf Hitler and proved that the belief in the superiority of German athletes was false. This beautifully illustrated and simply told biography tells the inspirational story of a man with strength of spirit and heart.”
Nonfiction and Biography
Olympic Gold 1936: How the Image of Jesse Owens Crushed Hitler’s Evil Myth By Michael Burgan
“Jesse Owens’ gold-medal winning feats at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin struck a mighty propaganda blow against Adolf Hitler. The Nazi leader had planned to use the German games as a showcase of supposed Aryan superiority. Instead there was American black athlete Owens on the podium being photographed by Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. In addition, Owens would figure prominently in the groundbreaking film Olympia by Hitler’s favorite director Leni Riefenstahl. Photo and film captured Owens’ stunning success and revealed how wrong Hitler was in his beliefs.”
Who Was Jesse Owens By James Buckley, Jr
“At the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, track and field star Jesse Owens ran himself straight into international glory by winning four gold medals. But the life of Jesse Owens is much more than a sports story. Born in rural Alabama under the oppressive Jim Crow laws, Owens’s family suffered many hardships. As a boy he worked several jobs like delivering groceries and working in a shoe repair shop to make ends meet. But Owens defied the odds to become a sensational student athlete, eventually running track for Ohio State. He was chosen to compete in the Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany where Adolf Hitler was promoting the idea of Aryan superiority. Owens’s winning streak at the games humiliated Hitler and crushed the myth of racial supremacy once and for all.”
Browsing for more books? Check out these other books about famous Alabamians!
- Children’s books about Rosa Parks
- Children’s books about Helen Keller
- Children’s books about famous Alabamaians
Thanks for reading!
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