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Mike Rosenbaum

PBS to Air Jesse Owens Documentary

By April 29, 2012

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jesse owens

A new documentary on track and field legend Jesse Owens will air on U.S. public TV stations Tuesday, May 1, titled, "American Experience: Jesse Owens." The one-hour film travels with Owens practically from his birth to his death, but mainly focuses on his four-gold medal performance at the 1936 Olympics, and his struggles to make a living in the U.S. following his athletic triumph.

Photo: Jesse Owens wins the 200 meters at the 1936 Olympics. Getty Images

Track and field fans will enjoy the footage of Owens' athletic exploits as a U.S. collegian, than as an Olympian who succeeded in frustrating the nazi propaganda machine at the Berlin Games. But the film doesn't flinch from displaying the cruelly ironic twist that Owens' life takes after the Olympic flame burns out. As successful as Owens is in fighting against prejudice overseas, he's much less successful fighting against racial bigotry in his home country. On his return from Europe in 1936, for example, Owens is shown as the guest of honor in a parade down the streets of New York. But he's unable to find a hotel that will allow Owens, an African-American, to spend his first night in New York, until finally one relents - provided he walks into the hotel through the servants' entrance.

You can read more about Jesse Owens' 1936 Olympic experience.

On an unrelated note, check out a new profile of one of this year's Olympic hopefuls, shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk from Belarus.

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