Jesse Owens (1913-1980) was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Born James Cleveland Owens on September 12, 1913 in Oakville, Alabama, and he changed his name when a grade school teacher mistook his initials “J.C.” for the name “Jesse.” The youngest child of sharecroppers, Owens and his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1922, part of the massive African-American exodus from the rural South. Under the guidance of Charles Riley, a junior high school teacher, Owens developed his athletic talents and took them to Cleveland East Tech High School. He was unbeatable at Cleveland East, but he was more than a high school star. He tied a world record in 1933, running a 9.4-second 100-yard dash at the National High School Championships. Jesse Owens had drawn the attention of a nation, and it would never leave him for the rest of his life.
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