Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America

By David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

4
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin The Response of America's Black Press

There has been a great deal written about the Modern Olympics since they began over eighty years ago, but none of the Games have received as much attention as those held Berlin in 1936. The Nazi Olympics have held a particular fascination for scholars who seemingly never tire of writing about Jesse Owens, Adolf Hitler, and the other individuals who occupied a central role in the Games that year. It seems odd, however, that no one has examined the view of America's black press on this subject, particularly because the Games were marked by a worldwide discussion of Germany's racial policies, and some of the outstanding athletic performances of the Games were turned in by black Americans. The secondary accounts of the 1936 Games have essentially been based on the descriptions given by the dominant white press. The results, of course, are accounts taken from a predomimantly white per- spective.1 This essay is concerned with the role of the black press and its coverage of the 1936 Olympic Games. How did the black press view the proposed boycott of the Games? What type of coverage did they give the games themselves? In the view of the black press, what ramifications would the success of black athletes have on the rest of black America.

Since its inception, the black press has always given wide publicity to any campaign by a black individual or group for racial equality. In fact, the black press has traditionally served as the agency responsible for disseminating news among the black community that primarily concerned themselves. Except for news of crime and scandal--or an occasional item concerning some individual black prominent in a cultural field--white papers have traditionally given limited coverage to those activities engaged in by black Americans. The black press is often the only satisfactory source available to the black reader for information

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